Native American Jewelry is known for its rugged use of precious metal and colorful gemstones. Unfortunately, many brand name manufacturers copied the original style and made their own, calling it "Native American Jewelry." Although there's nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from the natives, it is false advertising to imply it's from native origins. Over the years collectors have been saddened to find out the custom jewelry they purchased for their collection was fake. Native American turquoise belts have sold for as much as twenty-five thousand dollars. Imagine finding out is wasn't real! No one wants that this happens to them. This article will cover shopping tips to differentiate real native jewelry from fake.
How Native American Jewelry Began
Many indigenous tribes of the Americas wore jewelry thousands of years ago. Drawing on caves and even ancient relics prove that accessories were almost always a part of their fashion history. Spanish settlers were the first to teach the Navajo people of Arizona how to melt their silver. Since then the Southwest natives have built on their techniques and developed their original style.
Value Beyond Money
Native American Jewelry is more than just accessories. They are works of art. Native artisans have passed down traditions from generation to generation in the form of wearable masterpieces. The people behind the jewelry are working with their hands to create something beautiful. They aren't using computer aided design techniques to throw together thousands of duplicatable pieces. The custom jewelry they make is a testament to their skill, imagination, and patience.
It's important to pay attention to the price of what is labeled "Native American Made." Since so much work does go into the pieces they make, a custom jewelry designer won't want to sell his pieces for a few dollars. One of the best shopping tips for telling real jewelry from fake is the price. If the price sounds to good to be true, it probably is. The sales ticket should reflect not only the cost of the metal and stones. It should be a reflection of the time the maker put into it.
It is not against the law to call machine furbished. Mass produced jewelry "Southwest style." It's not technically claiming to be from a Native American jeweler. So while this may seem unlawful, it isn't. Buyers just have to be cautious when shopping. Laws are in place that forbids jewelry retailers from using "Native American" to describe any artwork that was not made by a government recognized the native person(s). An interesting thing about criminals is they don't mind breaking the law. It's the one thing they are good for. Even though laws are enforced to protect consumers, it doesn't mean people aren't still out to rip off shoppers.
A lot of native American custom jewelry is crafted by artisans that use only high-quality metals. If a retailer promises you that the metal in a bracelet is sterling silver, there's a test to see if it's true. Since it can be hard to tell a silver plated piece from a full silver piece, this is good to know. By nature, silver is not magnetic. If one were to hold a magnet near a completely silver item, the accessory should not move. If it clings to the magnet, that means it is a material other than silver. This does not prove the jewelry is not made by a native craftsman. It does prove, however, that the dealer can't be trusted.
Turquoise is another sign that could indicate the custom jewelry being real or fake. Natural turquoise has a visible matrix. It also usually isn't bright robin's eye blue. It should feel very hard if it is a mined gemstone. One of the best shopping tips when it comes to identifying turquoise is the dent test. If the client is warry, she can try denting the turquoise with her fingernail. Rocks don't dent to fingernails. If there is a visible dent left behind, she can know it's not real. There is a law that mandates turquoise jewelry vendors must state if the stone is natural or stabilized. Again, a law won't stop a con artist from trying to pass fakes for the real deal.
Custom jewelry that is crafted by hand will likely have tiny flaws. Especially is the native American piece is supposed to be antique, there should be imperfections. Jewelry was harder to make years ago, so perfect symmetry could be a reason to believe it's not old.
When browsing in a store remember these shopping tips to help know what custom jewelry is truly Native American.