Shopping for jewelry isn’t all fun and games. With lots of fraudsters on the loose, you might end up with something cheaper than what you’ve actually paid for. The stakes are even higher when you’re shopping for Native American jewelry. Factory-made goods can be marketed as handmade. Cheap gems may be sold as natural stones. If you’re not too careful, you might bring home a cleverly disguised counterfeit.
In light of such risk, it’s best to know the common tips on how to spot authentic Native American jewelry. Know the best smart buyer techniques through the help of this brief guide. Read on.
History of Native American Jewelry
Knowing the history of Native American jewelry is one of the best shields against the deceitful schemes of con artists. As the name implies, Native American jewelry refers to any ornamental piece created by Native American tribes.
While there is no definite date as to their genesis, evidence points that Native American jewelry pieces have been existing as far as the Paleo-Indian period. At that time, ornaments were mostly made of feathers, bones, stones, and shells. Eventually, as society progressed and tribes became exposed to more materials and procedures, jewelry production became more complex. Each tribe came up with its own unique styles and techniques. The Zuni tribe, for example, is most known for its elaborate stonework designs. The Navajo, on the other hand, is recognized for their silver-heavy designs often accompanied with bright turquoise stones.
To date, Native American jewelry items are considered testaments to the rich culture and history of the Indigenous peoples. The designs and production techniques of each tribe have been passed on from generation to generation. Overall, the beauty and rich history attached to Native American jewelry pieces, coupled with the high degree of craftsmanship required in making them, make these decorative items truly magnetizing for many.
How to Distinguish Fake from Authentic Native American Jewelry?
Unfortunately, the interest and fascination directed towards Native American jewelry gave rise to the proliferation of con artists. Imitations of authentic Native American jewelry are now out in the market and are being sold as real ones. Worse, such schemes don’t just victimize buyers but injure Native American artists who greatly rely on their works for a living.
If you’re thinking of buying a Native American jewelry piece, here are the best tips to spot authentic from counterfeit ones. Here they are:
- Hallmarks are a good sign
The presence of a hallmark in a jewelry item may help you know whether the item is fake or authentic. Often, Native American artists embed their signatures on their creations. Each hallmark is unique and indicative of the artist’s pride in his work. You can easily search online for the list and pictures of Native American jewelry hallmarks.
You can save those images to your device and compare whether the hallmark in the picture is the same as the hallmark embedded in the item. A jewelry piece lacking a hallmark may also indicate that the same is not authentic. Note, however, that this rule is not absolute since some artists don’t leave hallmarks on their creations.
- Uniqueness is the key
Authentic Native American jewelry items are handmade. They are not mass-produced. Moreover, they are created out of the works of individual Native American artists. The process of creating even a single piece is labor-intensive.
Hence, it logically follows that each jewelry piece is unique. Even if the creator himself tries to recreate one of his works, the result won’t be exactly the same as the original. Knowing this, jewelry items that share almost the same designs might be fake and are actually factory-made. You can also try to search online for images of Native American jewelry items and see if there appears to be an exact replica of the one you’re planning to buy.
- Beware of mediocrity
Native American jewelry pieces are products of decade-long techniques and practices. Indigenous artists also pride themselves on their outstanding craftsmanship inherited across generations. Mediocrity, therefore, shouldn’t be part of the equation. Stones must be cut neatly, and designs are intricate and precise. Jewelry items that seem hastily made or come with poor designs are therefore most probably fake.
- Identify jewelry by style and tribe
While Native American jewelry items share some common features, there are distinct styles associated with different tribes. The Navajo people, in particular, are exceptional silversmiths. While most tribes opt to cut stones to fit into silver, the Navajos choose to take the other path: it is the silver that is hammered and shaped around stones. If a jewelry item is marketed to be made by a Navajo artist, the silver is expected to be intricate and heavy, and the stone (often turquoise) must be large.
Meanwhile, the Zuni tribe is most known for its mastery in creating intricate patterns. While those made by the Navajo tribe come with chunky stones, items produced by the Zuni people come with stones that are impressively cut into teardrop shapes or narrow grains. The jewelry items also often exhibit animal carvings, called fetishes, with snakes as the most common subject.
The Hopi, another Pueblo tribe, is most known for their impressive silver overlay style in jewelry. On the other hand, the Santo Domingo Pueblo tribe is famous for its jewelry work made out of more traditional materials, such as natural stones and shells.
Be a Smart Buyer
Ready to add another Native American jewelry piece to your extensive collection? Knowledge can protect you on your next shopping spree. From hallmarks, patterns, to the materials used, there are many tell-tale signs that can help you spot authentic Native American jewelry items!
Planning to sell?
If you own authentic Native American jewelry pieces and are looking to sell some of them, you can determine their fair market value through the help of our experienced appraisers. Simply contact us through our website!