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716 S. Los Angeles St.
Los Angeles, CA

(310) 489-3763

Kristen Dorsey Designs, LLC was founded in 2011 by Kristen Dorsey, an award-winning Chickasaw metalsmith living and working in Huntington Beach, CA. For Kristen, jewelry goes beyond ornamental adornment; it is a medium with which she has forged her cultural identity as a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, a Native American tribe originally from the southeast.  Utilizing natural gemstones, precious metals, and other materials, her handcrafted jewelry pieces are a unique mix of Chickasaw visual traditions infused with inspiration drawn from the beauty of the California Coast.  Dorsey’s philosophy is that “jewelry is a sacred narrative; it captures moments of significance for the wearer such as transitions in life, relationships with one another, and with one’s community, cultural identity, and spirituality.”

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Cresent Gorget & their origin

Kristen Dorsey

The Panther Woman Gorget Fine silver, 24k, Larimar, Stingray skin. Price upon request.

 The Breath of Life Gorget - Fine silver, 14k sapphire, opal, peach moonstone, tourmaline.

Copper Statement Gorget - sterling silver, chased and heat colored copper. Available online now.

Two Worlds Gorget - Fine silver, copper, rainbow moonstone, black freshwater pearl, silk. Available online now.

Do you love large statement necklaces and gorgets? When I began metalworking over a decade ago, I was immediately drawn to the bold statement-making power of these designs. I was even considered unusual because I was one of the first women that I know of to make and wear this style of necklace. Why? Because it originates with Chickasaw men.

It is commonly believed that in the 1530s Southeastern tribes adopted this breastplate-like design from the Spanish conquistadors who came to pillage the southeast. However, one tribal elder told me that he believes this particular jewelry design actually pre-dated European influences. Gorget’s can be made with one, two, three, or even four tiers. Single tiered gorgets are a widely-worn and popular adornment for citizens of the Chickasaw Nation and other southeastern tribes.  Gorget’s with multiple tiers can be worn by cultural and governmental leadership.

Today, many Chickasaw male stomp-dancers wear this style necklace as a part of their traditional regalia. Tribal leaders also wear a version with three suspended crescents to signify their leadership status. This style of necklace is the perfect canvas for my imagery of southeastern symbols and visual stories.

As you wear a piece like this, I hope you will not only feel confident and beautiful. I hope you will think of the pride, courage, and leadership of the southeastern Native American people who fought so bravely to defend their lands from those who came to conquer them.

The significance of the Yaupon Earrings & Pendant

Kristen Dorsey

Of course, my Chickasaw heritage is always present in my work. The culture and experience of my people are a part of all I do. In this new collection, I’m inspired by several plants which are an important part of daily life for my tribe.

Yaupon is the only indigenous plant in North America containing caffeine and was traditionally used for tea.  Ancestors of modern day Southeastern tribes harvested and processed Yaupon because it was a valuable trade commodity. As a coffee addict, I was excited to learn that my people have used caffeine for thousands of years! The vibrant colored stones in my Yaupon designs symbolize energy, as well as the plant’s red berries.

Other plants, such as Possum Grapes and Price’s Potato Bean are a part of the inspiration for this collection as well. These plants are not only beautifully shaped, they’ve been staple foods of my people for generations.

I live and work in the historic core neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles. Many of the buildings in this area were built in the 1920’s.The geometric Art Deco lines  balanced with sculpted plant life seemed a perfect fit for my work. 

By blending elements of my heritage with all things Art Deco, I’ve created sexy new pieces I love to wear. I’m confident you’ll love them too.

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