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Jewelry of North American Nations: Cherokee

Black Hills Gold Ring LR2874

The Cherokees' heritage is evident in the style of their jewelry

The most commonly known locale that people connect with the Cherokee Indians are the states of North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. However, before they settled in the Southeastern United States, it is believed that they came from the Great Lakes area where the Iroquois lived. The Cherokees nowadays are the largest Indian tribe with an estimated more than 300,000 members. They are divided into several different tribes that organize themselves with their own government. The Cherokee Nation is one of the larger tribe and they live in Oklahoma.

Check out this website for more info about the Cherokee Indian nation

Like in so many other parts of the world, the original forms of jewelry made by the Cherokee involved beads, shells, and nuts; and with the invention of metals, copper, gold and silver became another source material to make jewelry. Much of the Cherokee jewelry incorporates turquoise, a blue or green gemstone that several other Indian tribes use to make artful necklaces, rings, belt buckles or the like. Cherokee jewelry items were very popular for trading with the European settlers during the early 17th century. In fact, their bead-work, primarily bags, developed into such fine art, it was sought after by many including chiefs of other Indian tribes.

Cherokee Bead-work and Turquoise Jewelry

Bead-work has remained one of Cherokees’ best-known expressions of art. The red and black swirl is a popular motif, as it represents the sun’s power and fire. Other motifs for Cherokee jewelry include traditional symbols and letters, arrowheads, wolves and eagles. Many of the Cherokee jewelry items are made of sterling silver and incorporate gemstones, frequently turquoise. Here are some examples of Cherokee jewelry: (photos compliments of

Cherokee journey earrings                                   Cherokee eagle pendant
           Sterling Silver Cherokee Journey Earrings              Sterling Silver Cherokee Eagle Pendant

Eagles are an important symbol in native American culture as they are recognized as a messenger of the creator, and are likewise relied upon to communicate our actions to the creator. Not surprisingly, the eagle is a very popular motif for jewelry across various types and makes, not just native American jewelry. Eagles represent strength and freedom and though more often found on mens rings, pins and belt buckles, they are also suitable for the ladies as well. Here is an example of a mens Black Hills Gold eagle ring with an onyx inset made by Landstroms:

The MR477 mens eagle ring above also has a women’s version; both feature the signature pink and green grape leaves on its sides, and is a prime piece of jewelry made by Landstroms. While Black Hills Gold jewelry was not originate by native Americans, it is a 100% American art form and is still made today, by hand, in the black Hills of South Dakota.

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  1. Darl Patrick on June 13, 2018 at 12:59 PM said:
    Osiyo One of our Cherokee members has a ring that was given to her by her mother that has "geo gill Cherokee" engraved on it. We have looked on the internet and cannot find any reference, do you know or guess what it might mean Wado
  2. Donna xx Followell on June 13, 2021 at 7:34 AM said:
    I am looking for a wrist or ankle bracelet.
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