People often see stores making the claim of “Authentic Native Jewelry” when you see it on signs and ads. Not just jewelry either, but an array of patterns, dolls, art, and concepts that would bewilder the imagination to think that such a small community could be producing this much material every day of the year.
As veteran buyers of this great nation, I think that we have developed some healthy skepticism that allows you to come to the conclusion that these are not, in fact, authentic pieces from Native American artists, but rather cheap attempts to make money off of a regular piece of simple Americana.
However, even with this rational skepticism, how do we tell if a piece is authentic Native American jewelry or art and should you buy the piece anyway. While it’s impossible to give you one specific element that will definitely tell you whether a piece is authentic or not, there are some general guidelines that will teach you how to buy Native American jewelry and other works.
What to Look for When Buying Native American Jewelry
- Dealer is King!– When it comes to buying authentic and quality Native American jewelry, you have to find reputable dealers in the industry. I promote a few on my site, but if you’re new to a store look if they list the materials, specify a certain tribe, and better yet, list the artist name. These things can help you research and look up the information they have given and verify with a quick search.
- Handmade is Queen– Most, not all, Native American jewelry will be handmade. It’s in their set of beliefs and they see it as a religious experience, just as much as an art form. Stores will typically sell both manufactured and handmade jewelry to keep up with market needs, but reliable dealers will list that in the product details.
- Price and Materials– This will depend heavily on the artist but expect to pay a premium price on pieces that are made artistically and crafted with the best material available. You have to remember, it’s an art in the way these skilled artisans work the metal, cut and set the stones, and create intricate designs in both to make their pieces. Look at the materials and the intricacy of the piece when shopping around.
- Material Examples– Some of the most typical materials used in Native American jewelry are sterling and coin silver, turquoise, coral, lapis, shell, and onyx. Expect dealers, vendors, sites, and stores to carry a lot more of these materials than any other.
- Treatment of Stones– Despite what you’ve heard, artists don’t just pluck the stones from the mines and put it on a ring. They need to be treated. Even though sterling silver is considered a quality material, it’s composition is not pure, it needs to be treated to make it durable because pure silver is easily broken. In the same sense, even the most renowned artists need to treat stones like turquoise in the same way. The most common method is the act of injecting acrylic into the stone to make it harder. This is known as “stabilizing” which is used by every major seller on the market.
Take your time when shopping around when looking for authentic and quality Native American pieces to add to your collection and do the research on these materials to arm yourself against people looking to scam you.