Two of the most iconic tribes for jewelry crafting are the Navajo and Zuni. Artists of these communities exemplify the history and culture of their ancestors and their work is typically a mix of high quality and fine detail.
Being able to identify who made your jewelry is a very helpful skill when you’re shopping through the markets and with traders.
You can also start to learn a bit more about the cultures you’re studying which is a great way to show your respect to a very proud and interesting culture.
How to Tell the Difference Between Navajo and Zuni Style Jewelry
There are going to be two things you should look at when trying to determine if your newly purchased piece is made from a Hopi or a Zuni artist: the silver, and the stone. Generally, if you see small stones, cluster, or inlay and you have reason to believe the work is Zuni. The Navajo typically use very large silver and stone pieces for their jewelry.
This is a pretty big difference. One of the benefits of knowing this fact is that you’ll be able to question the seller at any market if they make a false claim.
Another subtle difference between Navajo and Zuni Style Jewelry is proportion. A Navajo artist may go a little larger with either the stone or the silver, giving it a kind of asymmetry. On the other hand, a Zuni artist will try to match proportion with both. Each style looks beautiful, though. The Navajo style is more reminiscent of nature, in that nothing is perfectly symmetrical and Zuni pieces are aesthetically pleasing because of the matching sizes.
In the same way, the Zuni try to match the size of their silver and stone material in each jewelry piece; they will also match the colors as well. If the color of the stone is a little darker, they may make the silver in such a way that it appears darker.
Probably the most noticeable difference between Navajo and Zuni Style Jewelry is how the Navajo will more than likely lean towards a heavy silver construction. If you find a new piece at the market and there is a lot more silver than stone and the base is thick, you probably have a Navajo piece.
Now, these may vary from artist to artist but the styles of these two tribes are very consistent and go along with their culture, beliefs, and history.
You can see from the image above ( I also added a Hopi piece to illustrate how styles can vary) that each piece sings its own song, has its own unique past and cultural significance.