All photos courtesy of All Tribes ~ All jewelry shown here is handcrafted at All Tribes by Native American artists.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that unscrupulous people make money by cheating others. They are everywhere, not just lurking in the shadows as you might think, but right out in the open, brazen as can be. These dishonest retailers lay in wait for those of us, who innocent and wide-eyed with delight, gaze star-struck upon the object of our fancy. Nestled amidst a dazzling array of bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings–masquerading as genuine Native American jewelry–the piece we have our eye on may be a fake.
Our excited anticipation is a dead give-away to scammers. We are vulnerable to their cunning, wicked ways. They sense a deal almost like radar and move in for the kill. Another unsuspecting collector adds a non-authentic piece of jewelry to her Native American jewelry collection. As magnificent as this piece of jewelry may look–it may be fake, faux, counterfeit–just plain phony. This scenario does not have to happen to you. It is important to know what to look for when buying Native American jewelry.
As jewelry collectors, we have a deep inborn appreciation of wearable art of all kinds. We are drawn to beautiful, lavish jewelry as we are to food and water. We are enamored of the age-old craft of jewelry-making, the romantic heritage that is especially associated with Native American jewelry. We are captured by the magnificence of earthy corals, lapis lazuli, shell, onyx, carnelian and turquoise strung upon wings of gleaming silver. Who can deny that Native American jewelry is magical, heavenly. It has evolved from the distinct culture of Native Americans and carries a reverence for the past, yet is always the height of fashion.
The Native American jewelry copycats are good. It is so easy to be fooled, especially if you are new to collecting Native American jewelry. The real thing can be expensive, and the integrity of your collection is at stake when you make a purchase. Armed with some basic shopping guidelines, even a novice collector can avoid being duped. Here is the definitive guide on how to buy Native American jewelry, the right way.
1. Buy from an established dealer who offers written guarantees and Authenticity Certificates. Look for the Authenticity tag on the item.
2. Request a written guarantee and have the seller write the complete description of the item on the receipt, including authenticity verification.
3. Before buying Native American jewelry at Pow Wows, fairs, craft shows, juried competitions and other events, check for the requirements of the event and criteria for participation.
4. Be aware that not all Indian-made jewelry is handmade. Legitimate Native American jewelry is produced in the handmade style where the individual artist has complete control over craftsmanship, design and quality of the piece. Other jewelry may be mass-produced by a number of Indian artists, each sharing in building the final piece, rather like an assembly line. Also, keep in mind that some elements used in creating the piece may have been produced elsewhere. Indian jewelry may also be machine-made with little or no artist input whatsoever. These three methods are all utilized in the production of genuine Native American jewelry.
*Please note – Under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, any item produced after 1935 that is marketed using terms such as Indian, Native American or Alaska Native must be made by a member of a federally or state recognized tribe, or a certified Indian artisan. A certified Indian artisan is an individual who is certified by the governing body of an Indian tribe as a non-member Indian artisan.
The Act requires full compliance, and all Indian arts and crafts including jewelry, must be truthfully marketed. Words and connotations have weight in the Act, and the words–heritage, ancestry, and descent–are taken very seriously. These words and their meaning may be used in advertising only when true.
The best advice for identification is to use your intuition. If your intuition tells you it may be a fake, most likely it is.
Reference: All Tribes
All rights reserved. Copyright Susan Dorling