Are these Bird Fetish Necklaces Authentic Native American made?

Paula, we have bird fetish necklace and earrings to go with it (3 sets). The birds appear to be hand craved and detailed. We have done some research but are unable to find another necklace like this one instead of colored beads between the birds there are silver beads. Just trying to find out who made it and if it is authentic. It is in excellent condition as it has been stored away for years. Thank for your help. Tom

Is this authentic Native American made?

Close-up of bird necklace - Native American made??


Hi Tom,

I’ve never seen a Zuni or Navajo fetish necklace made with silver beads between the birds. And I’ve not seen birds carved in this particular shape before. With both of those things being said, it is possible that these could be an exception. However, from what I can see, I’m thinking they are not Native American made. I’m posting the photos so that if another reader has seen something like this from perhaps Mexico or the Philippines, you might get some feedback on these necklaces.

As your research has shown you, typically there is heishi made of penn shell, olive shell, turquoise, coral or other shell or stone material in between the carved animals. And in the case of birds, the two most common and traditional bird shapes are a longer general “song bird” or a hummingbird, some examples below.

Coral birds with coral heishi by Navajo Hector Goodluck

Turquoise Birds with turquoise heishi by Hector Goodluck, Navajo

Mixed Stone Hummingbirds with Penn Shell and Turqoise Heishi by Corrine Ramirez, Navajo

Orange Tip Olive Shell Birds with Olive Shell heishi and turquoise nuggets by James and Doris Coriz, Santo Domingo

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4 thoughts on “Are these Bird Fetish Necklaces Authentic Native American made?

  1. Hi Paula!
    We see this type of necklace a lot here in Arizona. They are frequently made by Navajo folks who set up blankets and sell jewelry at popular vacation spots around the state, especially those up near the Navajo Reservation. The supplies (shell birds, beads, and wire) are purchased from wholesalers in Gallup, NM, and then strung by Navajo families. The supplies are most certainly imported, usually from China, but also from the Philippines. Tom’s pieces could very well be this type of a “hybrid” piece – non-Native materials strung by Native Americans.
    After speaking to many people who have purchased this type of jewelry, it’s clear that the circumstances of acquiring the piece, and the chance to see and meet the “artist”, are the “real” treasure – a happy experience that they remember with great fondness.

    • Thanks for the comment and your local perspective.
      I’m sure there is much of this going on. The fact that the shell birds are not Native American carved is the most significant factor. One can see where it would be impractical for an artist to make their own beads, but the heart of a fetish necklace, the fetishes themselves, being imported is something that people need to be aware of when they are trying to establish monetary value. Authentic hand carved fetish necklaces do take a lot of time and talent to create.
      It is so true, though, what you say about the experience – that is often the richest memory.

  2. Paula,
    I have just spent considerable time going through your Web site and am amazed at the wealth of information you provide. Thank you so much and I will be using this frequently from now on!
    Trish

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