Both of my grandmothers were pin wearers. Most of the adult women I grew up around wore these decorative pieces of jewelry on their blouses, on the lapels of their jackets, or, as my dad’s mother and aunt did, on her hats. They were both a little eccentric and a lot of fun!
I found out today that “Pins” or “Pin” is not the actual word you would use to describe their jewelry. It’s not in my dictionary.
So, with a nudge from my literary background, I looked up the word “broach,” which I knew was used by some people, and found that it didn’t work either. The word is “Brooch,” which is pronounced “broach.” which doesn’t make much sense, but I thought I’d pass it along. Maybe I just learned to say it incorrectly?
Many people still wear them, but I don’t think anyone wears them more than traditional Navajo weavers. It seems to be one of the essential parts of their dress. Most of the pins are turquoise and silver, but that isn’t always true. When one of these extraordinary ladies visits us to bring a rug to the gallery, or even if they are just in town and stopping by to say hello, they almost always wear a pin of some type.
Since the early part of the 1900s, when the tourist market began to appreciate Southwest Indian jewelry, the pin has been an important and profitable type of jewelry for a silversmith to make. I don’t think I know a silversmith who has not made a pin at some point.
The traditional Navajo pins are usually made with turquoise or plain silver. Some Navajo artists have adopted the concept of arranging multiple stones to create patterns in a style that Zuni silversmiths originated. Hopi artists create pins of silver with designs made by cutting a pattern out of one piece of silver and overlaying it on another.
Zuni silversmiths moved a step further when they made pins using inlaid stones to create designs. Eventually, these designs became more and more intricate.
Some pins are made with a silver loop on the back, allowing them to be worn on a chain as a pendant.
Pins have been an essential part of women’s fashion for centuries. Unlike squash blossom necklaces, bracelets, or rings, they are attached to clothing rather than to the person. From small, simple pieces to intricately designed patterns, pins are seen on blouses, scarfs, coats, and purses. And I believe that some of the nicest pins (or brooches) are made by the Native silversmiths of the Southwest!
Take a look and see what you think!