The 1970s Native American Jewelry Boom

Did you ever wonder why there are so many Native American jewelry items from the late 1960s and early 1970s?

Those were the times of peace and love, alternative dress, hippies, movie stars going wild and a big publicity boost for Native American jewelry from Arizona Highways magazine and other publications.

Although many celebrities began wearing Native American jewelry in the late 60s and early 70s, perhaps two of the most influential were Jim Morrison of the Doors and Cher.

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Jim Morrison of The Doors

During the late 1960s when the Doors were at the height of their fame, Jim Morrison bought a concho belt from Wayne and Irma Bailey when they were traveling in California.  Joe H. Quintana (1915-1991), a Cochiti Pueblo master silversmith was the maker of this famous belt.  Quintana likely made the belt in 1966 or 1967 when he worked for Irma Bailey’s Indian Art & Pawn on the Old Town Plaza in Albuquerque.

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Cher wearing a squash blossom necklace and other turquoise jewelry

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The Sonny and Cher Show

cher turquoise

Cher (Cherilyn Sarkisian of Armenian, Irish, German, English and Cherokee descent) has used Native American jewelry and accents throughout her career from 1965 and has had a dramatic influence on fashion. Her album Half Breed was release in 1973.

cher half breed album

As a result of such publicity, everyone wanted some of the action !!

One of the most popular items made in the 1970s were squash blossom necklaces. There was a huge demand for them. It is also one of the most common vintage items offered to us today. The retail price of a squash blossom necklace during the early 1970s boom was the same or higher than the same item today. And often they were full size, heavy and ornate, something that doesn’t sell well today because a good number of people would rather wear than collect Native American jewelry.

During the boom some beautiful items were made. However, to cash in on the demand, some shops and silversmiths cranked out the items, sometimes with inferior workmanship and maybe the work wasn’t even done by Native American artists.

One thing that wasn’t skimped on was the sterling silver. Silver was only  $1.29 per ounce when Jim Morrison’s belt was made in 1966. Today silver is trading at $27.27 per ounce.  Read more about silver prices here. How Silver Price Affects the Value of Native American Jewelry

Back in the late 1960s there was ample US mined turquoise around to fill needs but as demand rose, Persian turquoise began to be imported from Iran.  In the 1970s a one carat U.S. turquoise stone would be considered expensive at $1. Today some of the more sought-after U.S. turquoise can cost up to $100 per carat.

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Because of the great demand, the 1970s experienced the first BIG influx of imported copies and reproductions which gave some people the idea that Native American jewelry was chintzy and poorly made.

The boom crashed about the mid seventies when the fashion cycle started changing and the silver price started rising, hitting an artificially inflated high near $50 per ounce in the late seventies.

Silver Price Affects Production of Native American Sterling Silver Bracelets

Many of you have written the last several months, hoping to find those nice heavy sterling silver Navajo bracelets for yourselves and for those on your Christmas list.

So this article is a further answer to all of you – and those of you searching for bracelets such as these.

Classic Navajo Sterling Silver Twist Bracelet by the Tahe Family

Twist bracelets such as the one above weigh in at 65-105 grams depending on the size and thickness.

Because of the high and rising price of silver, these bracelets simply are not being made. The bracelets we have listed on our Sterling Silver Twist Bracelet page might be the last ones we are able to get for quite a while.

Here’s another example. We purchased this 74 gram bracelet in 2008 when silver was $14.99 an ounce. It’s retail price at the time of our purchase was $225. We sold it today for that price and yet today silver is trading at $30 an ounce.  If we could get this bracelet from the artist today, it would likely cost $400 or more.

Sterling Silver Bear Storyteller Bracelet by Richard Singer, Navajo

Horsekeeping has a policy of not raising prices when silver goes up. We keep the prices as they were when we purchased the items. However, the next time we purchase sterling silver items (probably May 2011) such as Sterling Silver Bracelets, Sterling Silver Beads AKA Navajo Pearls and so on, the prices will likely be much higher or the items will not even be available.

To read more about silver prices, here is my post from October 2010

How the Silver Price Affects the Cost and Availability of Native American Jewelry

Sterling Silver Navajo Pearls by Larry Pinto, Navajo

Enjoy browsing through our inventory at “old silver prices” !!!

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