Jewelry Shopping Tips For Building A Native American Collection
Why Was Turquoise Used?
Almost every indigenous people of the Americas used turquoise in their jewelry. For some Native American tribes, the tradition goes back over a thousand years. Native American jewelry with turquoise was used during the trade for supplies needed, was thought to bring good fortune, it was used in ceremonies in masks or weapons, it was thought to give strength and healing.
Southwestern jewelry makers copied the practice and in the 1970s had trouble filling the demand for turquoise jewelry. By the end of the seventies, the trend began to trickle off as most fads do.
The buyers of that day didn’t have access to the internet and jewelry shopping tips were not readily available. Many purchasers would pay the same dollar amount today that they did for their turquoise jewelry back then.
Considering inflation, it wasn’t a good investment of their finances. Collecting jewelry from the late 1800s to the 1940s would have been the better investment for that period, but no one knew.
How The Internet Can Help
Today the internet is the primary source for jewelry shopping tips. It’s a great way to learn how to identify which southwestern accessories are real or fake. Buyers can also find resources to determine what is Native American crafted compared to non-native industrially manufactured.
One of the best ways to search for real, antique Native American jewelry is through Google. Just type in “old pawn jewelry” and you’ll get quite a few good hits.
Shopping tips to help spot authentic native American jewelry:
Look for the answers to these simple questions.
- Does the description say it’s made by Native Americans? “Southwest style” alone does not mean an indigenous person crafted the jewelry.
- Does the site you’re buying from have a good business reputation? Are there reviews up from verified purchasers? Make sure they have good return policies and there are proper authenticity certifications before buying.
- Do they have anything to prove their legitimacy? Have they been in business for a long time and if so, are they a member of ATADA? If the piece you are looking at is from an Antique Tribal Arts Dealer Association member, it’s probably true native American. Remember this is true for older jewelry. Newer jewelry handcrafted by American natives won’t qualify since they aren’t antique.
The words “Old Pawn” don’t signify pawnshop rejects in the American Native art world. In the native dealer community, it means that the handmade jewelry was traded for goods or services.
One of the best jewelry shopping tips for investing in real pieces is to see if an original pawn ticket is still attached. Just because the pawn ticket is dated from 1982 doesn’t mean it was made in 1982. It could have been crafted long before then, so investigating must be done. Having the original pawn ticket still on the piece will increase its value if one ever decides to resell it.
Anything made around or before the early 1900s is usually worth the most money. Buyers can expect to pay more for anything crafted during this period but beware. Since the Native American jewelry from this era was so simple, it’s easy to duplicate. To avoid getting a fake, one of the smartest jewelry shopping tips is to buy from a very reputable dealer.
It’s common to see squash blossoms and silver bracelets sell between three thousand and seven thousand dollars. Navajo belts can cost around twenty-five thousand dollars, depending on quality. You don’t want to spend that kind of money on a fake, be cautious.
Rings aren’t typically the big money makers in a Native American jewelry collection. If you are looking just for your wardrobe and not to re-sell, they can be a great buy. Navajo and Zuni ring from the 1920-1930s are usually under the one hundred dollar price point. Rarely, a ring made before that period will be seen selling for at most seven hundred fifty dollars.
Sellers on eBay often list real native jewelry from the 1960s-1970s as “Old Pawn.” Even though some of these pieces are certainly genuine, they aren’t worth as much as the earlier pieces. Bracelets are typically priced between one hundred and three hundred fifty dollars. Squash blossoms will regularly sell between one hundred and three hundred fifty dollars.
Things to Check Out
One of the best tips for jewelry shopping is to familiarize yourself. Doing so is simple. See many, many pieces in person before buying is advisable. You’ll begin to notice things about the patterns and the way they are made.
Reviewing lots of pieces will help you to develop a knack for telling real from fake. Bringing a magnifying glass along while you’re getting acquainted with the jewelry is a very good idea. If a piece is old, it should show signs of wear. Some areas should be smoother than others. There should be scratches. Nothing that old comes without flaws.
Be careful while shopping from dealers who seem to be know-it-alls when it comes to turquoise. Many different mines can produce several different variations in the pattern and color of its turquoise. It’s next to impossible just to look at the turquoise and know its exact origin, even for expert eyes. It’s better to hear, “I have reason to believe this is a Navajo mine in Arizona,” versus this is unmistakably from the Grecian mine in Sedona.”
It’s better to have to search for answers than to hear a false one. Most importantly, buyers need to be able to tell the difference between mined turquoise and resin-made.
True turquoise is not bright robin egg blue in color. They’ll also have a matrix and be tougher to the touch. A good test is to try denting it with your fingernail. Real turquoise should not dent so easily. Be advised, you might not want to offend your dealer by pulling that move in front of them.
Progressing Your Skills
Another one of the best jewelry shopping tips is to take it slow. If trying to build a collection to sell, this is especially true.
Try to master one specific type of accessory before branching out to other kinds. There’s a lot to be learned when it comes to Native American jewelry collecting, and it can’t be done overnight.