Besides the Native American jewelry sold directly by the artists under the Plaza portales, Santa Fe holds enough shops for you to spend weeks browsing and buying. And don't pass by the museum gift shops without a gander; they often have an excellent selection of quality art, crafts and jewelry for sale.
Shopping for Native American Art
Santa Fe’s best shopping is beneath the portales (overhanging arcades) in front of the Palace of the Governors, to which Pueblo Indians travel as far as 200 miles to sell gorgeous handmade jewelry. The tradition started in the 1880s, when Tesuque artisans first greeted arriving trains with all manner of wares. Today up to 1200 members, representing almost every New Mexican tribe, draw lots for the 76 spaces under the vigas each morning. Those lucky enough to procure the desirable spots display bracelets, pendants, fetishes (small carved images) and thick engraved silver wedding bands on bright blankets. Classic turquoise and silver jewelry is the most popular, but you’ll find many other regional stones in a rainbow of colors. Most artists are happy to tell you the story behind each piece in his or her open-air gallery – and most are one-of-a-kinds. Not only are the prices better here than in a store but the money goes directly back to the source: the artist. Only attempt to bargain if it’s suggested; the vendors may find it insulting.