Bead Weaving Southwest-Inspired Jewelry
Native Americans have been making jewelry since long before Europeans settled in North America. Originally, jewelry was made with shells, stones (including turquoise), bones, and wood. When Europeans introduced metalworking, silver also became a staple of Native American jewelry.
Artists (including jewelry artists) have long been attracted to the Southwest. The purplish mountains, reddish-brown soil, golden sun, and azure sky of Arizona and New Mexico provide endless artistic inspiration.
Southwestern jewelry first achieved mainstream popularity in the 1960s. It remains fashionable, not only in classic silver and turquoise but also in vibrant reds and yellows and earthy browns and blues. Southwestern motifs have also found their way into modern jewelry. Diamond shapes, crosses, and Navajo patterns such as Ganado and Chinle are common.
Of course bead weaving is also a huge part of Native American and Southwest-inspired jewelry! Check out these Beadwork projects that have a definite Southwestern flair.
Desert Diamonds Bracelet
Shae Wilhite’s Desert Diamonds Bracelet combines SuperDuo diamonds with twisted strands of size 11 seed beads. The effect, especially in the blue and bronze colorway, actually resembles the pattern on a diamondback rattlesnake!
Katie Wall’s bead crocheted Diamondback Bangle in April/May 2015 Beadwork is a classic Southwestern pattern in a fun mix of colors. Although bead crochet is a bit beyond my skill level, the April/May 2015 issue includes a great primer on making bead crochet ropes.
Arizona Sunrise Bracelet
Venetia Perry square-stitched a section of beadwork in a traditional Native American pattern and stitched it to a leather strap. This quick and easy bracelet has a wonderfully casual feel.
Cactus Flower Bracelet
Carole E. Hanley uses a bright pop of color to stitch stylized cactus blooms. Wear this sturdy cuff for a bold Southwestern statement.
Dakota Canyon Bracelet
Shae Wilhite’s Dakota Canyon Bracelet is inspired by the sweeping vistas and vibrant colors of the Southwest. She combines turquoise, copper, and cream SuperDuos with coordinating seed beads for a classy peyote-stitched cuff.
Arizona Sky Bracelet
Lindsay Burke created her loomed Arizona Sky Bracelet in a timeless Southwestern pattern but added a pop of neon. The striking pink against the various blues emulates the look of an Arizona sky at sunrise or sunset.
The August/September 2017 Beadwork cover project is a gorgeous necklace and bracelet set by Shanna Steele. This design is also available in a limited-edition kit. Shanna is often inspired by the natural, earthy colors of the Southwest. This design incorporates sunny crystal rivolis with purple, navy, bronze/red, and gold SuperDuos stitched into striking medallions.
The main project is for the necklace, which uses a 14mm rivoli in the center and three 12mm rivolis on each side. The necklace is on the shorter side, at just over 15″, which is sure to make a bold statement when worn.
The bracelet version uses five 14mm rivolis to create a large, showy cuff. The pattern includes an insert for how to adapt the instructions to make the bracelet. You could also use the smaller 12mm rivolis for the bracelet, for a slightly less flashy look.
Whether you decide to make the Tucson Vista necklace or bracelet (or both!), or you opt to stitch one of the other Southwest-inspired designs highlighted here, you’re sure to be in style.
Managing Editor, Beadwork magazine
Find these Southwest-inspired patterns in the Interweave Store!