Giant one pound turquoise buckle by Mary Livingston – what’s it worth?

Hi Paula,
I have a piece by Mary Livingston that measures about 4 x 6 x 5/8″. It’s one solid piece of turquoise with red veining carved into an indian chief face with a full feather headdress. It’s setup to be a belt buckle, backed and bordered by silver. It weighs 1lb 2 oz.
I’m interested in selling it and I’d like to know what it’s value is. Let me know if you’d like a picture.
Thanks,
John
Turquoise Buckle 001 (Large) Turquoise Buckle 002 (Large)

Hi John,
Thank you for your query about selling your Native American jewelry. We receive many e-mails each day and we don’t know who has read the information on our website about selling jewelry. So that is why I ask………Have you had a chance to read this article?
If so, please send a photo of your item with your asking price. I’ll let you know if your expectations are within our budget and if we should proceed. We don’t make any offers via photos but they help us determine whether the items are appropriate for our store and whether you should ship them to us for a formal appraisal.
To help you determine the market value of your item, read this helpful article.
“Paula – What is my Squash Blossom Necklace worth?”
Paula
Hi Paula,
Attached are the requested photos.
Re my “asking price”, I haven’t a clue and my inquiry to you is an attempt to figure that out. Per your suggestion, I combed Ebay extensively and there’s simply nothing comparable to this piece, sold or not sold. I found a site that gives ballpark pricing per carat on various grades of turquoise, but other than the top grades that mine is obviously not, it’s hard for me to determine where mine falls. So any light that you can shed on that will help move me toward figuring out fair pricing for making a deal with you, if you are interested.
Thanks
John
That is truly a unique buckle John. I can see why you couldn’t find comps !!
I took a 4 x 6 tablet I have here and held it over my belt buckle and WOW, that is a big daddy, and as you say, heavy.
I’m not sure it would ever be worn, so it would be something someone would purchase to “collect” and admire more as a piece of art rather than a functional belt buckle.
It seems to be made for the non-native buying public as the Indian heads are not a traditional design that NA artists would make for themselves or their families. It would be made for sale I would guess and probably was a special order.
Mary Livingston, a Navajo, usually does Zuni style inlay so this is quite a departure for her. Did she make it for you? Or did you purchase it second hand? Sometime the provenance helps a bit too.
I’m at a loss as to its worth too, although your photos are good, it is hard to tell the quality of turquoise from a photo.
If you come up with a price, let me know.
Best of luck with it !! I could post it on my blog to see if anyone has any comments or knowledge on its value.
Paula
By all means, post it on your blog. I’d love to find out more about it.
I thought it was kind of an odd choice of subject for a NA artist to take on. And the shear size of the thing didn’t look like anything I’d ever seen in NA turquoise jewelry.
My mom’s husband bought this and when my mom died, I ended up with it. A website called Turquoise Sky(www.http://turqsky.com/Turquoise-Price-Guide.html) in California lists 5 grades and the 4th from the top is called:

4. Average grade

A good to average grade are with proper color, matrix balance, etc, cost about $2 to $5 per carat.

So the buckle weighs 500gm. At $2/ct x 5ct/gram x 500gm = $5000
Is this way out of whack?
Thanks,
John
Hi John,
Figuring there is give or take one pound of turquoise…..
1 Pound = 2267.96185 Carats
Let’s see what others say………..I know $5000 is out of our price range !
Paula
October 10, 2013
I now have the buckle here in person.
After all of us here at horsekeeping examined the buckle closely and I showed the buckle to a number of my colleagues……..here are some thoughts.
Mary Livingston is a Navajo that does work in a Zuni style.
The consensus is that it is a hand carved Navajo buckle made from stabilized turquoise OR compressed and fracture sealed stone. Most felt it was from one piece of turquoise that had been treated in some way.
Most stabilizing is done with epoxy base and heat added to the turquoise to harden and enhance it so that it will not crack or chip or break when carved. This changes the color and consistency of the stone making it hard to identify what mine it was originally was from although one expert suggested it could possibly be Kingman.
All of the heishi and fetish necklaces we sell are made from stabilized stones – otherwise they would crack when drilled or carved. Also stabilizing turquoise preserves its color. It keeps a blue buckle like this from becoming green. But many bracelets and other set stones are made with very hard high grade natural turquoise which is preferred and garners the highest prices.
Compressed refers to a treatment that uses pressure to harden the stone and Fracture Sealed refers to a stone that is treated with a fracture sealer product (epoxy) which hardens the matrix in it. Value wise, compressed, fracture sealed stone is worth more than block but less than stabilized. And stabilized is worth less than natural. (By the way, block turquoise is turquoise that has been pulverized and then reconstituted, so is a manufactured product, USUALLY using turquoise.)
So from highest to lowest value, it would go something like this: high grade natural, stabilized, compressed/fracture sealed, block.
So this buckle is not natural untouched turquoise, it is not a block (or manufactured) turquoise product but it some type of treated turquoise in between those two extremes.
The highly shiny areas on the face and in between the feather tips show where there is more epoxy in that particular area of the stone.
The very clean cut edges, especially along the sides and the edges of the feathers are so smooth that it tells the stone is most likely compressed, fracture sealed stone because even stabilized stone would not have that strong, thick linear edge – it would have a gap or flaking somewhere – but it is very smooth and slick……which means it has been “filled in” or treated quite a bit in one or more methods. It would have to be in order to be carved in such detail and not crack.
Bottom line – it is a beautiful, unique buckle and it would HAVE to be made of one of the treated turquoise products so it would withstand carving and use as a belt buckle !!!
As far as value, the only one that mentioned a figure was the man who has been a Native American jewelry retailer and wholesaler for over 40 years. He said
“Best guess $300-400 retail. Maybe more..”

As always, I welcome comments.

Paula

6 thoughts on “Giant one pound turquoise buckle by Mary Livingston – what’s it worth?

  1. WOW….I…. without a doubt, would wear this piece. As for the quality of the stone….it would have to be pretty good to be able to be carved like this, wouldn’t it? Gem grade? I wish I could make you an offer because it is beautiful. Good luck on your search!!!

  2. It’s a spectacular Zuni piece. The stone is probably stabilized so they could carve it without it breaking so easily. I don’t have any idea of the value but I think it’s beautiful.

  3. That piece is priceless. A piece that large and of that seeming quality of turquoise is worth $4 a carat MINIMUM.. But of course, anything is only worth what you can get for it. That is why marketing is so important. You take this thing to a gem show, rent a space and display it properly and someone who can afford it and wants it, you wiil give you your asking price. Always price at least 25% higher than the rock bottom you want. People like to haggle.. so be prepared to bargain.. also stay open to trades. You may be able to get several smaller pieces in trade which would be easier to market. People nowadays just have to swipe their credit card and are impulsive. It may take a while and a few shows to find the right buyer for that big of a piece. But rest assured, you will. Stick to your guns and don’t fold and sell out for a cheap price. You can ask fifty ‘experts’ and you will get fifty different prices. But remember, the experts are not going to be the ones to buy it. Unless they can steal it. That is why you are getting low ball price quotes. Experts are dealers and they want to buy it cheap to resell at a five to one profit. Put it up on Ebay at the price you want. You can leave it up for 7 days and if you don’t get a nibble, lower it a little, etc. If you show it twice and don’t get a nibble.. take it down and store it for a month, then put it back up, etc. Sooner or later, it will sell.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s