Like Landstroms Black Hills Gold, Hopi Jewelry is also made in America, but exclusively by native American Hopi Indians.
WHO ARE THE HOPI INDIANS?
The Hopi are an Indian nation that now lives on an Indian reservation in northeastern Arizona. Hopi means “The Peaceful Ones”. Their population is approximately 10,000 (census results are not conclusive), and they live in twelve traditional villages on several mesas, surrounded by the Navajo reservations. The Hopi’s ancestry is the Anasazi who traditionally lived in the Four Corners area of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.
Though the Hopi are well known for their pottery, baskets, textiles and beadwork, Hopi jewelry has gained a lot of popularity throughout the 20th century. Originally, Hopi jewelry was made of turquoise, shells, stones, wood and seeds; these are the traditional materials used for Hopi since ancient times by nations across the entire globe.
THE ORIGIN OF HOPI JEWELRY
With the invasion of the Spanish and their insurgence into the Southwest, the Indians of the area learned how to work with metals, in particular silver-smithing. Until World War II, silver work was either cast or stamped. In the 1940s, the Hopi developed a method of silver “overlay” which, as the word indicates, involves placing one layer of silver on top of another.
This technology gained more widespread application when veterans returned from the Second World War and they enrolled into smithing classes that were sponsored by the government. The Hopi during that time developed and refined the process of silver overlay. In 1949, the Hopi Cooperative Guild was founded, which also offered training and tools and by doing so promoted the artwork and advancement of the overlay technology.
WHAT IS SILVER OVERLAY?
The process involves using sheets of silver. Most jewelry items of value are made of sterling silver, which consists of 92.5% pure silver that is blended with other metals to give it a firmer structure. This allows the material to be formed and cast into specific shapes, and cut with the many designs that are now created by a huge variety of traditional and modern jewelry makers.
In the case of the Hopi’s silver overlay technology, two sheets of silver are implemented. A design is created on one of the sheets of silver and then cut out by hand with a saw. This is called the “negative” layer. This layer is then soldered onto another sheet of silver that is textured with a hammer, chisel or punch. The two sheets are then assembled, cut into final shape and then oxidized with a layer of silver, which brings out the negative areas of the design as the black patterns that the Hopi jewelry is so well known for. Here is a beautiful example of the intricate art the Hopi have mastered so well (compliments of www.indiantraders.com):
Hopi jewelry comes in either a polished or matte finish. Buffing the jewelry with soft wheels creates the polished finish while the matte finish is achieved through buffing with fine steel wool. Additional information about this process and many examples of Hopi jewelry can be found at http://www.indiantraders.com
Hopi jewelry designs are often religious in nature. They use both symbolic motifs as well as realistic patterns and shapes, many of their designs being inspired by ancient sources. Nowadays, the type of jewelry created by the Hopi includes bracelets, rings, necklaces, earrings, buckles and money clips, pins and key rings.
Silver tends to tarnish over time, so if you own a piece of silver jewelry, regardless of who made it and how it was made, do not become concerned if it turns black after some time; it is by no means a sign of poor quality, this is simply an inherent characteristic of the metal. You can remove the black tarnish by polishing your ring, earring, or buckle, or whatever jewelry items you may own with a silver polish and a soft cloth.