Handcrafted pieces that are authentically constructed by individual artists are hot ticket items in the art, collectible and jewellery markets. One of the most treasured styles of jewellery is Native American pieces. Tribes in North America have artists who specialize in crafting unique pieces for buyers. Genuine Indigenous pieces may take many hours of handiwork to complete, which makes them more valuable to collectors. Unlike other mass-produced items, these handcrafted pieces offer quality and cultural significance. Unfortunately, there are some imposters out there trying to pass off mass-produced items as authentic pieces. At Colonial Acres Coins, you can find a variety of quality sterling silver jewellery pieces from various artists and cultures.
In the United States, Indigenous jewellery sales must follow the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. This law keeps unscrupulous businesses from falsely claiming something was handcrafted by a Native American artist. Indigenous jewellery can only be labelled as such and sold if it is authentic. The law also mandates that the labelling about the tribe that produced the item must also be accurate. This law was passed due to the popularity of these art pieces and collectibles and the potential for fraud.
Unfortunately, there are still entities that mass produce jewellery and other items and make false claims about them being handcrafted by Native American tribal members. Much of these fraudulent items come from overseas factories in Asia, where it is much more difficult to enforce Indigenous regulations. Consumers need to do some research and learn about the origins of each piece of jewellery that claims to be Indigenous before going through with the purchase.
Details About the Silver
If you want to buy a Native American piece, you first need to learn more about the type of sterling silver used in these jewellery styles. The most popular pieces are ones in sterling silver. Buyers should carefully inspect any piece of sterling silver jewellery to determine its authenticity. Navajos and other Indigenous tribes have developed a tradition of fine silversmithing, so the quality of the silver should be outstanding.
Jewellery made from a modern Indigenous artist will have a stamp indicating the purity of the silver. Sterling silver jewellery will have a tiny stamp of .925 on it, indicating it is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Larger pieces may include the word “Sterling” or the letters “SS” instead of the number.
If a piece doesn’t have a stamp, you’ll need to look closely at the description or ask about the purity of the silver. Some items may be described as Tibetan silver, German silver, Mexican silver or Nickel silver. Instead of sterling silver, these items may contain lead, nickel or other compounds and are usually not authentic. If you’re unsure about whether or not the piece is truly sterling silver, you can check if it’s magnetic with a small magnet. Real sterling silver is not magnetic.
Other Signs of Authenticity
Jewellery shoppers should also inspect other aspects of a piece if it claims to be Indigenous. If there are multiple items that look exactly the same in a store, that may be a sign the piece was mass-produced by a factory instead of individually by an artist.
Some artists may also leave a signature on their pieces in the form of a small sign or hallmark. It’s also important to look closely at any other features, such as turquoise gemstones. Some pieces use natural stones, but many other items feature stabilized turquoise, which is beautiful but still affordable. Designs on authentic pieces may use sand casting, inlay and intricate patterns, which are all labour-intensive.
Before investing in your next piece of vintage, heirloom or handcrafted jewellery, make sure you know what you’re buying. Check out some of these unique pieces of sterling silver jewellery from Colonial Acres Coins that feature quality materials and workmanship.