Identifying Authentic American Indian Jewelry.

American Indian Arts and Crafts are Sold Through Many Outlets, Including Tourist Stores, Gift Shops, and Art Galleries. Here Are Some Tips to Help you Shop Wisely.

 

Before buying Indian arts and crafts at powwows, annual fairs, juried competitions, and other events, check the event requirements for information about the authenticity of the products being offered for sale. Many events list their requirements in newspaper ads, promotional flyers, and printed programs. If the event organizers make no statement about the authenticity of Indian arts and crafts being offered for sale, get written verification of authenticity for any item you purchase that claims to be authentic.

 

                          

 

Identifying Authentic American Indian Jewelry.

Price  

Although Indians may make and sell inexpensive souvenir-type items, authentic high-quality Indian jewellery can be expensive.

 

Appearance 

Well-crafted jewellery has no wavering lines or lopsided designs. If a design is stamped into silver, the most common metal used, the image should be clear. Images on imitations often are blurred. High-quality pieces use stones that are well-cut and uniform in size and fit snugly into their settings. The stones on imitations may be poorly cut, leaving a large amount of metal-coloured glue visible between the stone and the metal. Look for the artist’s “hallmark” stamped on the jewellery. Many Indian artists use a hallmark, a symbol or signature, to identify their work. 

 

                             

 

Guarantee of Authenticity  

A reputable dealer will give you a written guarantee.

 

Type of Materials

Silver 

Is the most common metal used in American Indian jewellery?

 

Sterling  

Describes metal containing 92.5 parts silver and 7.5 parts other metal. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Jewelry Guides, any item marked “silver” must be sterling. 

 

Coin Silver 

Describes metal containing 90 parts silver and 10 parts other metal. It is called “coin” because Indians melted down Pre-1900 American and Mexican coins to make jewellery before they were able to obtain commercially made ingots and sheet silver. 

 

German Silver 

Also called Nickel Silver, refers to 60 parts copper, 20 parts zinc, and 20 parts nickel. Under the FTC’s Jewelry Guides, no item should be called silver, even with a modifier such as “German” or “Nickel,” unless it contains at least 90 per cent silver. Nevertheless, you may see or hear this term used in connection with Indian jewellery. In particular, some Sioux and Southern Plains Indian metalsmiths work in this metal because it is associated with their cultural heritage. 

 

Drawn Silver 

Refers to the way sterling sheet silver is rolled and pulled through a draw plate to get a certain circumference. It is then cut into tiny segments, filed and strung into strands for necklaces. It is sometimes called “liquid silver.” A few artists make hand-pulled silver but the majority of liquid silver is manufactured, not handmade.

 

Stones

The Most Common Stones Used in American Indian Jewelry Include.

 

Carnelian  

A translucent reddish quartz stone. 


Coral 

The hardened secretion of tiny sea creatures. Coral ranges in colour from white and pale pink to deep reds and oranges. 


Lapis Lazuli 

A rock composed chiefly of the minerals lazurite (deep blue), pyrite (metallic yellow) and calcite (white). The bluestone is commonly used in modern designs by contemporary Indian artists. 


Onyx 

A translucent quartz stone which, in its natural state, is usually grey or pale blue. Onyx frequently is dyed black.

 
Shell 

The general term used for pieces of the outer hard surface of marine animals, particularly those of pearl oysters and abalones. A shell may be used in silver inlay work or maybe shaped into flattened disks, drilled and strung into necklaces known as heishi. 


Turquoise 

A copper mineral, often containing small brown or grey veins. Turquoise ranges in colour from sky blue to greenish-blue. The stone varies in hardness from soft/somewhat porous to hard. In the U.S., turquoise is found in the southwestern states. Use of turquoise from other countries is common.


Stone Treatments
Turquoise and other natural or mined stones used in jewellery may have been treated. Treating refers to any alteration of the properties or appearance of natural turquoise and other stones, with the exception of cutting and polishing. Under the FTC’s Jewelry Guides, consumers should be told if a stone has been treated and the treatment is not permanent, the treatment creates special care requirements, or the treatment has a significant effect on the stone’s value.


Dyeing 

Adding blue dye to low-grade turquoise, and adding black to grey or pale blue onyx, to enhance the stone’s appearance. 


Reconstitution 

Pulverizing fragments of turquoise, coral or lapis lazuli into a powder. The powder is mixed with epoxy and worked into cakes or stones, which are used just like natural stones. 


Stabilizing

Injecting clear, colourless acrylics into low- to medium-grade turquoise to toughen and harden the stone and enhance its colour. Stabilizing is the most advanced and sophisticated method of treating turquoise. The majority of turquoise used today is stabilized. Natural gem-quality turquoise is usually only used by top artists and commands much higher prices than stabilized turquoise.


It’s not always easy to spot a counterfeit item but the price, materials, appearance and the seller’s guarantee of authenticity may help.


 

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