Native American jewelry remains a popular collecting category these days. It is a broad subject but here is a an overview to get you started.
Most pieces of NatAm jewelry are crafted of sterling silver and set with semi-precious stones associated with the American southwest. Turquoise is especially common in such pieces but you will also see jasper, onyx, coral, and many others as well. Within turquoise there are many different types, ranging to the pure greenish blue to "matrix turquoise", which is polished matrix with embedded streaks and pockets of turquoise. Finely crushed turquoise is also commonly seen.
The Zuni and Navajo peoples arguably have the deepest tradition of jewelry making but Hopi and other tribes crafted wonderful pieces as well (and continue to do so today). Identification can sometimes be a challenge, however. Many NatAm silversmiths used only their initials or, in some cases, a single symbol such as rising sun mark. Information is rather fragmentary on the internet and often times you will have the most success in ID'ing your pieces by turning to physical reference books. Also, be aware that often times a piece may not be marked "sterling" even though it is (Native American makers are, I believe, exempt from US Federal assay marking requirements).
Because many people brought back pieces from western trips and vacations, nice examples of NatAm jewelry can turn up almost anywhere. Personally, I have made some of my best finds going through the cases of flea market dealers and resale stores since often times, they haven't taken the time to research a piece and identify a prominent maker. The Jackie Singer bracelet shown above, for example, is only marked "J S". Singer was a prominent Navajo maker and the piece is 60 grams of sterling silver, even though it is not marked as sterling.
Value will naturally be guided by several factors. These include the maker, the level of craftsmanship, the amount of silver used, condition, and age. In general, older is better and a prominent maker will always be more desirable than a lesser-known silversmith. Sadly, fakes abound so be alert for "too good to be true" deals. In the meantime, happy hunting!
Bryan H. Roberts is a professional appraiser in Sarasota, FL. He is a member of the Florida State Guardianship Association and currently serves on the board of the local FSGA chapter. He is a past president of the Sarasota County Aging Network, a non-profit that provides grants to other non-profits benefiting seniors in need and is also a board member of PEL, an area non-profit whose resale store profits support programs and scholarships for at-risk and disadvantaged youth. He is certified in the latest Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Equivalent