How to Know if your Native American Collectibles are Authentic?

May 21, 2020

 

Native American jewelry, art, and woodwork are always a welcome find at estate sales in Tacoma, Seattle, Gig Harbor, and Olympia. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we are lucky to be surrounded by Native American culture, and authentic artifacts are particularly valuable.

 

Over the course of their history, Native Americans have made beautiful blankets, fishing baskets, jewelry, wooden art, and tools. But how can you tell if your what you may have found is the real thing?

 

Know the Source

One of the most popular styles of necklaces made by Native Americans was the squash-blossom necklace. It was so popular with tourists in the American West that the Navajo had to import a more inferior turquoise to keep up with demand. So, how can you tell if you have an authentic version of this popular style? Authentic pieces were marked with the name of their source mine.

 

Authentic squash blossoms were primarily made in the Southwest by the Navajo, Zuni and Pueblo tribes.

 

Wear

The older the piece is, the more valuable, which means there are dishonest folks out there who are taking something new and trying to make it look old. To determine the correct wear, look at the color, have the colors oxidized? If it’s old they should have.

 

You should also look over the piece carefully. For example, bead work will be oxidized entirely, so check between the cracks. It’s not uncommon for a fake to show signs of wear on visible surfaces, but once you take a closer look, you will be able to see.

 

When it comes to wooden or metal objects, there should be wear, in logical places. But not wear from something like sandpaper. If someone tried to sand down an item to make it look worn, you will see the consistent marking from sandpaper. With metal, check for logical wear patterns.

 

Damage

Much like wear, damage to fabric pieces like wool blankets or rugs is to be expected. Due to their age, small holes from wear, or insect damage will naturally occur. Beware of large holes, or damage that seems too extreme.

 

Native American culture is deep, meaningful, and incredibly important to the many tribes throughout our nation. And while collecting Native American artifacts is intriguing, a certain level of respect is necessary. Our friends at Antiques Road Show articulated this well in a 2014 article that we encourage you to read. Check it out here.

 

And truly, the only way to know if what you have is authentic is to have it evaluated by an expert. If you have artifacts you would like evaluated, give us a call. We can help.

 

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