Native American

Pair of Earrings

Artist: Unknown
Culture/People: Kiowa
Place: Oklahoma, United States
Media: Nickel (German) silver
Dims: 2.75 x 0.5 in. (6.8 x 1.27 cm).
Date: late 19th C.
RTC No: NA0427
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


This pair of early Kiowa earrings from the late 19th century is an exemplary introduction to the style and material that came to be widely popular across the Plains region and beyond.

Nickel silver (an alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc) is an exceptionally hard metal and is not suitable for casting. The result of working in such material is relatively simple and flat forms, with the detail showing through in the cut-out shapes and surface etching.

The simplicity of these pieces belies their implicit power, both aesthetically and culturally. Plains nickel silver jewelry has typically been crafted for an internal, rather than external, market and meant to move when worn. This particular pair reflect the design of women’s trailer belts, with their dangling trailers that shimmer and shift as the wearer walks or dances—catching the very specific sheen of nickel silver in the sunlight.

Watch a video of artist Jhon Goes in Center speak about this piece on Collection Spotlight.

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