On The Turquoise Trail…
Where to find them aqui en Taos?
The Southwest and its heritage of being a Cultural Crossroads (along with all the trappings and accoutrements associated with it), cycles in and out of Fashion, but these days, what’s old is new again, and turquoise and silver jewelry is hip once more.
Long before European colonization, this region was home to many different tribes, each with their own unique culture, spiritual beliefs, and sense of style. In a world without steel safes, wealth had to be portable, and jewelry was as much a bank account as it was decorative.
Native American jewelry production began as early as 12,000 years ago. Paleo Peoples transformed materials like shell and stone into wearable jewelry, and tribes across America followed suit with the materials available to them.
Animal and fish bones could be carved into ornate pendants, while stones, shells, and coral could be chipped into tiny beads for necklaces or clothing decorations. Native American tribes today continue to produce beautiful pieces of jewelry with modern materials,including gold and titanium, even though we automatically think of turquoise and silver when we think of the Southwest.
Visitors to Taos will be on the hunt for wearable and affordable, but most importantly, authentic, Native made, pieces that are becoming increasingly more difficult to find. Style and fashion, being two entirely different things, prevents these unique, handcrafted items from reentering the market very often, once purchased, except for the occasional Estate Sale or lucky thrift shop find. Savvy stylish women usually hang on to their Southwestern bijou, either integrating them as a signature look, or waiting out Fashion’s fickle cycles.
Luckily we have several places here (besides the pueblo), that still sell authentic Southwestern jewelry, and I’ve listed 5 of the best of them, to make your shopping excursion a whole lot easier!
Chimayo Trading del Norte in Ranchos, in the plaza that is home to the iconic St. Francis de Asis church, is a fine place to start. Family owned (the Abrums’ have been in the business for several generations), and run by folks who really know their stuff, makes it an excellent source of authentic Southwestern Native American art.
The gallery is a treasure trove of an impressive selection of Southwestern and Native American Arts and Crafts, including jewelry; both antique and/or vintage as well as contemporary pieces including Gabriel Abrum’s own finely wrought work.
Bryan’s Gallery on Kit Carson Road is another sure bet for a wide range of Native and locally made silver jewelry and Concho belts, both old and new, including a few coveted Harvey pieces.
The gallery is a short walk from the plaza (where it was originally housed in the old Courthouse, for many years), and can be counted on to delight you with its stash of shiny objects, displayed in large cases lined up against the wall of windows that allow the light to flood into this lovely space, filled with Southwestern Art and objects.
El Rincon Trading Post
El Rincon Trading Post, also on Kit Carson Road, is an absolute must for anyone on a serious Treasure Hunt in Taos. Opened initially by artist and businessman, Ralph Meyers as the first official trading post in town, across the street from where the infamous Kit Carson once lived, El Rincón has been a serious destination spot for locals and visitors alike ever since.
Ralph Meyers was later immortalized by Frank Waters as the “Good White Trader” in his novel “The Man Who Killed the Deer.”
Those mythic days may be long gone, but El Rincon remains one of the best resources for what you are looking for!
Address: 114 Kit Carson Rd, Taos, NM 87571-7012
The Pueblo Collection
On the south side of the plaza, you’ll find The Pueblo Collection – not one,but two stores owned by the Khweiss family, who came to Taos from Palestine more than two decades ago. The brothers and their wives have raised their kids here, but also have a long and strong link to Gallup, New Mexico and in particular, to the Navajo or Dine Nation. One of the Khweiss brothers married a Dine woman and their kids can frequently be found working in the shops during the summers as well.
The sparkling cases contain an amazing selection of mostly contemporary Native made jewelry, but a few vintage pieces find their way here from time to time. Do ask questions; the brothers are all extremely knowledgable about what they sell, with personal connections to most of the makers – and are happy to share the information they have. They frequently offer generous discounts, depending on the purchase, as well.
Address: 102 S Plaza, Taos, NM 87571
Last but not least, there’s something wonderful on the corner of Bent Street! Sue Westbrook at Taos Blue has a long relationship with several renowned Native and local jewelers in the region, and carries a mind-blowing selection of jewelry, both traditional and ultramodern. You’ll be hard pressed not to find something that appeals to your singular sense of style, here!
Taos Blue has been a favourite stop for visitors to el Norte for 30 years, ever since Sue first opened her doors in the building that was once home to the co-founder of the Taos Society of Artists, Bert Phillips. Her gallery has since expanded (into additional rooms), and is filled with American made Arts and Crafts, lighting and ceramics, Stetson hats and bits and pieces of Americana you won’t find anywhere else, but the jewelry cases in the front room attract Treasure Hunters like bees to a honey pot!
Located on the corner of Bent Street, across from the historic Taos Inn, just look for the Corn Maiden beside the (Taos Blue) door!
Written by Lynne Robinson