The Hopi are the only Southwestern tribe whose jewelry is not defined by the use of stones; indeed, many examples of fine Hopi silver jewelry don’t include even a single stone.
The tribe is known for its masterful techniques of carving sterling silver. The imagery seen on bracelets and rings is shrouded in history, cultural significance and spirituality. The Hopi are not quick to talk about their ceremonies and religion with outsiders and many people believe there are ceremonies and dances that have been practiced for hundreds of years and have never been seen by anyone living outside of the reservation.
When it comes to Hopi silver jewelry, some images may be easily recognizable, such as the Kokopelli – a symbol of fertility – or the bear, which signifies strength. Other symbols remain a mystery to those outside the tribe, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty.
Hopi silver jewelry will frequently tell a story through the Native American Indian symbols and images used. Any single piece could chronicle an adventure, a religious story or a tale of well wishing.
The Hopi are known as “the peaceful ones” and offering a gift is considered to transfer the good fortune and symbolic power of the totems represented on the gift.
Most Hopi silver jewelry is constructed using the overlay technique. The artist cuts out a design from a top sheet of silver and solders the design to a bottom piece of the same shape and size.
The bottom sheet is often matted to create specific textures and patterns. Ofter the piece is tarnished, buffed and polished, it appears to have been constructed by one solid piece of silver.
The earliest examples of Hopi silver jewelry did not feature stones of any sort, although some modern artists have begun using stones such as turquoise, amber and coral.