Native American Jewelry Authentication Resources – Buyer Beware

This necklace fooled a lot of people, including the savvy collector who bought it years ago as well as several dealers in the business for over 40 years. It is not Native American made – it was made in the Philippines.

 

BUYERS

If you are thinking of purchasing a piece of vintage or contemporary jewelry and you assume or are told by the seller that it is Native American made, before you plunk down the cash, I encourage you to read through this article to find ways to authenticate the piece.

ebay has some very good sellers and can be a great place to shop but it is also loaded with counterfeit items and misrepresented pieces. BUYER BEWARE !

This is especially important if you are considering purchasing on eBay, etsy or one of the Native American warehouse type sites. While there are many educated, experienced, honest sellers on the internet, there are also those who either  A. don’t know or B. intentionally misrepresent. The latter type of seller really confuses things for everybody. So buying Native American jewelry on eBay or other auction sites is definitely a case of Buyer Beware.

SELLERS

I know there are many long-term, experienced and honest sellers of Native American jewelry around. So this information is not directed at you. The intent is to help new and inexperienced sellers of Native American jewelry.

If you are new to the Native American jewelry arena, know that if you are describing a piece as Native American made, you have a legal responsibility to be sure that it is authentic. These resources are provided to both serve your customers AND protect you as the seller.

Your reputation depends on satisfied customers and honest transactions. It doesn’t take long for word to get around if you are trying to pull a fast one to make a bigger sale through misrepresentation. And using “I didn’t know” doesn’t cut it. As a seller you are legally obligated to accurately represent the authenticity of an item. If you don’t know, take a deep breath, say you know don’t know and most importantly, don’t call it Native American.

NATIVE AMERICAN MADE OR NATIVE AMERICAN STYLE?

There is

A. authentic Native American made jewelry

B. counterfeit jewelry sold as Native American made (see next section)

C. Native American style jewelry that is not Native American made.

The latter type is also sometimes referred to as southwest jewelry since it copies many of the materials and designs of the southwest tribes.

I got into a funny back and forth discussion once with a customer who was trying to sell us her jewelry collection, mostly non NA made. They were nice sterling silver inlay pieces very typical of the southwest style. I said we weren’t interested as they were not authentic NA made. But she kept insisting that they were “real”, I think referring to the materials. Yes, real in the sense that you can touch and see the sterling and stone but they still were not made by NA hands, so they were not authentic NA made.

A perfect example of this type of “real” southwest jewelry (but not authentic Native American made jewelry) is Carolyn Pollack jewelry. Some of the pieces from that company are sterling silver and some also have real stones. People that like it love it.

Carolyn Pollack Southwest Style -Sterling Silver-YES …………………….. Real Turquoise – PROBABLY NOT ……………………………………………Pretty- YES ………………………………………………………………………….. Native American made – NO

There is a place for all type of items in the marketplace – as long as they are described accurately. Call a spade a spade.  You can read a little bit more about southwest style jewelry in my article “Info please on this pendant necklace with a crescent moon and a R”.

To qualify as Native American made, the piece must be made by a recognized, enrolled member of a Native American tribe.

Sterling Silver Wedding Basket Pendant by Navajo artist R.H. Begay

Read about the rules and regulations at the website of The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 where it states that “it is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian tribe.”

Below is an excellent article about a historic authentication group UITA.

Quest for Authenticity – The United Indian Traders Association: Better Quality, Greater Sales by Bille Hougart

FAKE NATIVE AMERICAN JEWELRY

There is a lot of counterfeit jewelry around – it is being sold as Native American made but is NOT. This is a distressing fact of life. What is even sadder is that the counterfeiters even copy the known hallmarks of legitimate NA artists, cutting sharply into the profits of the authentic artists and making it hard for even seasoned retailers to know the difference. Grrrrrrrr………..

Some of the counterfeit jewelry seized in a recent raid

Much of this type of counterfeit jewelry comes from overseas and is blatantly sold right in the heart of Indian country such as Gallup, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and the like.

To read about this problem and the latest sting operation, read  Biggest Fake Native American Art Conspiracy Revealed

HALLMARKS

 

 

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Hallmarks are a great aid in linking an artist to a work but they are only one piece of the puzzle. It is just as important to know materials and design style of an artist. And due to the counterfeiting of the hallmarks themselves, some hallmarks are faked!

Authentic Native American items may or may not be hallmarked. Hallmarks are much more common since the 1970s but even today, many artists do not sign their work. This is especially true of stone necklaces, Navajo Pearls and earrings where there isn’t a convenient place to put a a hallmark. Hallmark tags are sometimes used on necklaces.

For more on hallmarks, read my articles:

What is a Native American Hallmark?

Native American Hallmark Books

Book Review – Native American and Southwestern Silver Hallmarks by Bille Hougart

Here is another great article from a favorite blogger of mine Kim Messier Reassessing Native American Hallmark Books

There is also an extensive hallmark list on this website

BOOKS

Besides hallmark books, there are many other books and published materials related to vintage and contemporary Native American jewelry. Look through the list of books in our reference library by clicking the link below:

Native American Reference Library at Horsekeeping LLC

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BUY DIRECT FROM THE ARTIST OR FROM TRUSTED SELLERS

The best way to know you are buying authentic items, is to buy directly from the artist or from trusted galleries and sellers.

Horsekeeping LLC

Most artists are not set up to sell retail – they do not have stores or websites. Some artists do. But most sell to gallery or store owners that want to carry their work.  For example, read our authenticity policy at our webstore horsekeeping.com.

Authenticity of Native American Jewelry Policy at Horsekeeping

Vintage Shop at Horsekeeping LLC

Our MO (Method of Operation) is that if we have not purchased the item directly from the artist (which occurs frequently when we purchase estate lots) we try to authenticate the origin definitively. If we can not, then we do not call it Native American, we do not call it Navajo, Zuni or Hopi. We just sell it as-is even though it might show all the characteristics of being Native American made. This is important to us, to our customers and to Native American artists.

If an item is of unknown origin and/or materials and does not show design or workmanship characteristics of Native American jewelry, it goes into the Bargain Barn. We have made a few mistakes over the years and put some valuable things in there just because we couldn’t authenticate them. But better to err on the safe side.

Bargain Barn for items of unknown origin

 

CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY

Unless filled out by the artist, a COA is not worth the paper it is printed on………..

Legally, only the artist who makes a piece can fill out a Certificate of Authenticity (COA). Otherwise IMHO, a COA is not worth the paper it is printed on. Therefore, for a seller to send you a generic certificate or one that the seller signs serves no purpose. Most artists sign their work with a hallmark.  Of those that do not sign, very few provide COAs.

NATIVE AMERICAN JEWELRY GROUPS

So what to do in the case of unsigned vintage or contemporary pieces? One route it to find Native American jewelry “experts”. The internet makes this possible through groups.

There are many groups on the internet that are devoted to Native American jewelry,. Some have great educational and sharing atmospheres! Others are negative and combative and some members give answers and opinions that are self-aggrandizing and self-serving. As with any group, the cream will rise to the top.  I’ll list a few of my favorite groups below. After you successfully join the group, ask for comments on the piece you are considering buying or are getting ready to sell.

Here are some group tips:

  1. When you post to a group, give as much information as possible: dimensions, weight, type of materials, where you got it, any other provenance you might have.
  2. Include a lot of photos with your question. They should be large, clear and show all aspects of the piece, including closeups of key features and hallmarks. Even with all this it is sometimes hard to tell for sure if something is authentic from photos. There is nothing like having the piece in hand. But in many cases, photos do the trick because certain aspects are easily recognizable.
  3. Everyone has an opinion. Some opinions are better than others. And some opinions are just not right ! Once you join a group you will soon learn which members not only have an opinion but back it up with experience, facts, information and research. Those members are gold.
  4. Some comments might sting because not all members filter their thoughts. Your 1970s bracelet might be called rough or ugly even if it IS NA made. So brace yourself for some honest opinions. Also be ready for people to make inappropriate comments when they haven’t even taken the time to thoroughly look at your photos, read your description or read previous comments. Some just leap before they look. Or look but do not see. So take all comments with a grain of salt.
  5. Be polite and grateful and contribute when you can – that’s what makes a community work !
  6. Don’t use the group space for personal chatter and silliness. Most groups prefer to stick to the topics at hand. Post a serious inquiry, you are likely to get a serious answer. After all, that is what you want, right?

Here are some of my favorite groups – please let me know of others that you think should be added to the list.

Navajo Jewelry: Antique, Mid-Century, & Contemporary

Historic Navajo Jewelry

Let’s Talk Turquoise

Historic Hopi and Pueblo Jewelry

Contemporary Zuni Jewelry

Historic Zuni Jewelry

Zuni Jewelry – Let the Buyer Beware

Paula

National Geographic March 15, 2018 Biggest Fake Native American Art Conspiracy Revealed

Biggest Fake Native American Art Conspiracy Revealed

Jewelry dealer Nael Ali will be the first defendant sentenced in the most extensive federal investigation into Indian arts and crafts fraud.

At a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing held at Santa Fe Indian School on July 7, 2017, William Woody, then Chief of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, called the $250,000 maximum penalty a “pittance” for those who pass off mass-produced imports as Indian made.

PHOTOGRAPH BY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, AP

High on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern New Mexico, a dusty main road runs through the Pueblo of Zuni. Pull over to the side, and someone in threadbare clothing will soon approach your window holding out a mysterious little box. In Los Angeles, where I live, such an offering could only mean trouble, and you’d be wise to roll up the window and make a quick getaway. But here in the homeland of the Zuni people, it’s safe to take a look. The box is lined with soft cloth, and in it you’ll find an exquisite creation this person made with his own hands—a travertine animal carving, silver earrings inlaid with the Zuni sun face motif, a corn maiden pendant of carved shell.

The Zuni people rely heavily on hard-won earnings from handmade jewelry and crafts. The tourism department of Zuni Pueblo estimates that 80 percent of working adults there make arts and crafts for sale. Yet it’s getting harder and harder for them to make a living.

 

Navajo jeweler Liz Wallace works on a piece in her studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MAXINE MCBRINN

For as long as the Zunis and other indigenous artisans have sold their crafts, they’ve been undercut by fakes—nonnatives posing as Indians to sell more of their work, factory made goods sold as handmade. But today’s fakes include a virtual torrent of knockoffs cheaply manufactured overseas and masquerading as genuine Native made—baskets made in Pakistan sold as Navajo, beadwork made in China sold as Plains Indian, Hopi katsina dolls cranked out in the Philippines—none more profitable than counterfeit Indian jewelry.

The insult isn’t just financial. “Our arts and crafts give us a really concrete way to stay connected to our culture and our history,” says Navajo jeweler Liz Wallace. “All this fake stuff feels like a very deep personal attack.”

But even though the rampant sale of counterfeits in the Southwest has been widely acknowledged for decades—and has ties to organized crime, according to affidavits by federal investigators—only recently has the U.S. government taken any serious action to shut down the major operators. Whether the crackdown has teeth will be tested in New Mexico in April, when Albuquerque jewelry dealer Nael Ali will be sentenced for fraudulently selling imported jewelry as Native American made.

 Ali, the owner of several retail stores in Albuquerque’s Old Town district, pleaded guilty on October 18, 2017, to misrepresenting as Native-made jewelry sourced from two family-run networks he said were supplying him with counterfeit jewelry made in the Philippines. These two networks make for the largest Native American art fraud conspiracy ever brought to light.

Ali’s sentencing is the first in the ongoing federal investigation called Operation Al Zuni, which began in March 2012, and is the most extensive ever conducted into Native American art fraud.

The investigation was named Operation Al Zuni after Al Zuni Global Jewelry, a well-known business in Gallup, New Mexico, owned by Nashat Khalaf, a Palestinian immigrant and prominent Indian arts dealer. Al Zuni, which claims to be the “largest wholesaler of Indian jewelry serving the Southwest since 1977,” has its storefront in Gallup but also sells at gem and jewelry trade shows where retailers from all over the country buy inventory.

Misrepresenting arts and crafts, including jewelry, for sale as Native made when they’re not is a federal crime under a law passed in 1935 called the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. The act provides for penalties of up to $250,000 and five years in jail for first time offenders, but until now it has rarely been enforced. Federal law also requires that “Indian-style” products imported into the United States be permanently marked with the country of origin. That law too has been widely flouted.

 

Billboards along Highway 40 in Arizona and New Mexico tout indigenous-made arts and crafts, from pottery and rugs to moccasins and jewelry.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARAYA CORNELL

It has been estimated that the Native American arts and crafts industry brings in more than a billion in gross sales annually nationwide. And although many would say that not enough profits have ever reached the artists, the sale of handmade jewelry, baskets, pottery, carved figurines, beaded leather, and other crafts provide livelihoods for thousands of indigenous people.

According to federal investigators, the two families running counterfeiting networks are both Palestinian, known to law enforcement as the Sterling Coalition and the Aysheh brothers. The Sterling Coalition, the larger of the two, operates an importing company in Albuquerque called Sterling Islands, which is owned by Nashat Khalaf’s brother, Jawad Khalaf, and niece, Sheda Khalaf.

In affidavits filed in support of 18 search warrants executed in October of 2015, investigators name these and other members of the Khalaf family, and associates, as participants in a scheme to import and fraudulently sell counterfeit Native American jewelry manufactured in a factory in the Philippines called “Fashion Accessories 4 U.” Jawad Khalaf and his son, Nader, have owned the factory since at least 2006. None of the Khalafs has been charged yet.

Albuquerque lawyer John Boyd, who represents Nashat Khalaf and Al Zuni Global Jewelry, calls the allegations against his client “wrong.” The business and its owner, he said in an email, “have supported Native American artisans for decades, maintain good relationships with them and provide the most important outlet in the area for Native Americans to sell their work. Al Zuni and Khalaf deny that they have ever attempted to pass off or have passed off any jewelry as Native American, Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, or any other tribe, when it is not.”

Mark Baker, another Albuquerque lawyer, who represents Jawad Khalaf and Sterling Islands, emailed that his clients “certainly deny that they violated the law or otherwise engaged in any deceitful conduct. This is a family of people known in the community as honest and responsible.”

 Law enforcement estimates that Sterling Islands has imported into the U.S. contraband jewelry worth $11,800,000 in wholesale value between October 2010 and October 2015. According to court records, retail buyers and wholesalers would place orders for replicas of particular pieces of genuine jewelry and pick them up at Sterling Islands.

The four Aysheh brothers running the other alleged conspiracy—Imad, Nedal, Iyad, and Raed—were charged in February 2017. Their trial is scheduled for October of this year. None has yet entered a plea.

 

Zuni jeweler Roxanne Seoutewa uses a flint spark lighter to fire up her torch in preparation for soldering hand-formed bezels to a silver sheet. Later she’ll fit in the tiny stones she’s cut and sanded.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARAYA CORNELL

In October 2015, when Operation Al Zuni went public, 11 jewelry and Indian arts stores were raided in New Mexico and California, including two of Nael Ali’s Albuquerque stores, Gallup 8 and Galleria Azul. The Indian Arts and Crafts Board estimated in 2016 that the retail value of the 350,000 pieces of jewelry seized during the raid exceeded $35 million.

Operation Al Zuni was conducted by the Office of Law Enforcement for the Southwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and funded through an agreement with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior tasked with developing and promoting arts and crafts as a source of income for American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as with enforcing the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

MADE BY INDIANS?

In the Pueblo of Zuni, jeweler Roxanne Seoutewa sits in a folding chair at a cramped desk in a well-worn trailer, soldering tiny hand-made bezels to a piece of silver sheet. Into the bezels she’ll fit the seed-like stones she’s cut, sanded, and polished to form the close, stitch-like pattern known as needlepoint and recognized by collectors the world over as one of the classic Zuni styles of handmade jewelry.

This miniature silver canteen, photographed by investigators at Al Zuni Global Jewelry, was sold to an undercover agent as Navajo made on November 24, 2014. Two years before, 20 identical canteens were found in a shipment from Fashion Accessories 4 U in the Philippines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, AP

Compared to artisans trying to sell their work on the street, Seoutewa is doing well. But she has to go farther and farther from home to get a decent price for her work. She doesn’t sell to the local shops in Zuni anymore, or even to the wholesalers 40 miles away in Gallup. The problem, she says, is all the cheaply made foreign imports illegally sold as Zuni handmade.

It was the arrival of the railroads in the Southwest at the turn of the 20th century that set off a roaring business in indigenous art and crafts, and the industry has been a defining presence in the Southwest ever since.

And it was a boom in the tourist industry along Route 66 in the 1960s and 70s that attracted fortune-seekers from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank. In 1972 Nashat Khalaf and three of his brothers were among the first to arrive in Gallup, the wholesale center for the arts and crafts produced on nearby Indian reservations. They opened a business selling Zuni jewelry, calling it Al-Zuni Traders. As Khalaf told Al Jazeera years later, he and his brothers had such instant success in the jewelry business that they “called everybody” back home. “It was a bonanza,” he said. “It was a gold rush, and they all came here.” By 2002 several hundred Palestinians had settled in Gallup, most reportedly in the Indian jewelry business.

Today road trippers driving Interstate 40 through Arizona and New Mexico are bombarded with billboards hawking crafts “MADE BY INDIANS.” Much of what’s for sale hasn’t been made by Indians at all. Even Santa Fe, regarded as the heart of the high-end Indian art market with its world-renowned plaza shopping district, is rife with forgeries—so much so that the city recently announced an ordinance to try to rein in the fraud.

Higher-end jewelry knockoffs are copied from one-of-a-kind pieces by master Indian artisans and stamped with initials and symbols to mimic an artist’s hallmark. In stores the fakes are often mixed in with genuine pieces but sold at a discount, forcing jewelers who painstakingly craft each piece by hand to compete with counterfeits produced in sweatshops.

Navajo silversmith Aaron Anderson, of Gallup, New Mexico, holds out a tufa stone negative he’s carved, which serves as both the mold for a belt buckle and a guarantee of authenticity for the buyer.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARAYA CORNELL

The Indian Arts and Crafts Board collects complaints about potential violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, but without a law enforcement bureau of its own, the board must rely on other agencies to investigate complaints. In 1990 a major overhaul of the act increased penalties for violations and gave the FBI primary responsibility for enforcing the law. But the FBI had other priorities, and the bureau generally declined referrals of potential violations from the board, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office.

By late 2011 when the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to look into fraudulently sold Indian arts and crafts, no jewelry dealers, or large-scale dealers in Indian arts and crafts of any kind, had been charged under the act. On several occasions during the 1990s and 2000s, New Mexico attorneys general sued jewelry stores in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, including several dealers identified by Operation Al Zuni as selling the Sterling Coalition’s Philippine counterfeits, but their suppliers were never identified. And even though the rampant sale of counterfeits in Arizona and New Mexico has been widely acknowledged for decades, no major counterfeiters had ever been charged.

Yet federal law enforcement had been alerted to at least one potential supplier as early as 1994, when the Arizona law firm Kirkpatrick & Kramer wrote to a Department of the Interior investigator on behalf of Hopi jeweler Jason Takala warning that “an outfit in eastern Gallup, New Mexico named ‘Al Zuni’ is mass-producing copies of original Native American jewelry.”

It wasn’t until nearly two decades later, after the Fish and Wildlife Service had taken over enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act, that a piece of counterfeit Indian jewelry in a retail store was traced back to the Khalafs.

MAKING THE CASE

On November 26, 2012, a Monday, Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Russell Stanford walked into Gallery 8, an upscale jewelry shop in Albuquerque owned by Nael Ali. Posing as a jewelry dealer, Stanford bought two rings stamped with the initials CK, which the clerk told him stood for the Navajo artist Calvin Kee, according to court records. (There is no known Navajo jeweler named Calvin Kee.)

Ultraviolet light exposes otherwise invisible markings on a ring sold as Navajo made by Gallery 8, in Old Town Albuquerque, New Mexico. Special Agent Russell Stanford marked the ring when he intercepted a UPS shipment full of jewelry imported from Fashion Accessories 4 U in the Philippines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE, AP

Later Stanford looked at the ring under an ultraviolet light and confirmed that it had come from the Khalafs’ factory in the Philippines: There were the dabs of otherwise invisible ink he’d applied to the ring two and a half months before when he intercepted a shipment of jewelry coming in from Fashion Accessories 4 U and bound for Sterling Islands.

In just months Stanford, working as the sole investigator on Operation Al Zuni (a second agent wasn’t added until June 2014) had done what no federal investigator had yet been able to do: substantiate a source for the high-end counterfeits that had been turning up in retail stores for decades.

Less than 30 days later, Gallery 8 was featured in a Christmas shopping guide in the Albuquerque Journal. Nael Ali claimed that he purchased all his jewelry, except for the Polish amber jewelry, directly from Native artists. “There’s no middleman for me,” he said.

Ali, along with Mohammad Manasra, a traveling jewelry seller (who Ali admitted in his plea agreement was indeed his middleman) were arrested in October 2015 in Operation Al Zuni’s initial take-down and became the first jewelry dealers ever to be charged with violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. (The charge against Manasra has been reduced to a misdemeanor, and he isn’t facing incarceration.)

In Nael Ali’s plea agreement, filed October 18, 2017, he admitted that the Philippine-based factories run by the Khalafs and the Aysheh brothers were the sources of counterfeits (some supplied through Mohammad Manasra) that he was fraudulently selling as Native made at Gallery 8 and at Galleria Azul, another store in Albuquerque. Ali confessed to mixing the knockoff jewelry with genuine Indian-made jewelry and ensuring “that none of the Philippine-made jewelry was marked with its country of origin.”

TAKING OUT THE THORN

The ongoing prosecutions against the alleged fraudsters in New Mexico are sending shockwaves through the Indian arts and crafts industry. Nidal Abdeljawad of All Tribes Trading Post, an Indian arts store in the Pueblo of Zuni, claims that Nashat Khalaf’s Al Zuni Global Jewelry supplies 90 percent of the retail stores in the U.S. that deal in Native art. “If this guy has to close his shop, it will be a disaster for the Native Americans,” Abdeljawad says.

 

On the remote Zuni reservation in northwestern New Mexico, an estimated 80 percent of working adults make jewelry, pottery, stone animal carvings, or other arts and crafts for sale to tourists and dealers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARAYA CORNELL

Other Southwest dealers fear that prosecutions against business owners accused of peddling fakes make for bad publicity and that customers and collectors, concerned about getting ripped off, will avoid shopping for Indian arts and crafts altogether.

Justin Winfield, of Winfield Trading Company, a large buyer of Indian jewelry and crafts located on the highway between Gallup and Zuni, disagrees. Fanning out the thick stack of newspaper articles he’d collected since October 2015, he told me last July that he thought the ongoing prosecutions were already having a “positive impact”—that buyers for retail stores were taking greater care to ensure authenticity.

A few spooked customers in the short-term is a price Winfield is willing to pay if it means curbing the influx of fakes. “It hurts to take the thorn out,” he said. “But after it’s out, you can heal up.”

William Woody, who championed his agency’s investigations into Indian arts and crafts fraud when he was chief of law enforcement at the Fish and Wildlife Service, thinks Operation Al Zuni has “just scratched the surface.” At a Senate field hearing last July—Woody’s final day on the job—he said, “We have not begun to take a comprehensive look into the markets for other Native American items in the Southwest, including pottery, paintings, blankets, etc., where there is likely similar fraudulent activity.”

“In order for things to change,” wrote the editors of the Gallup Independent in October 2017, “the federal government, as well as attorneys general in states like New Mexico and Arizona, must get a lot tougher on these frauds.”

The sentencings of Nael Ali and Mohammad Manasra, who have confessed to knowingly dealing in fakes from both alleged networks, will test how tough New Mexico judges are willing to be. Manasra isn’t facing prison time. But Ali, who pleaded guilty to a felony, faces up to 18 months in prison and could be the first person ever to go to jail for violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act.

Prosecutors have requested that the sentencing in Albuquerque of Ali and his co-defendant, Mohammad Manasra, be on the same day in April so that any Native American artisans who wish to be heard by the court won’t have to travel twice. “Now’s the time for these artists to come forward,” says Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Chavez, who supervised the Fish and Wildlife Service’s investigation.

Do Due Diligence when Researching Native American jewelry

What is Due diligence? It is business term used when describing research before financial transactions with a company.  Commonly used when considering investing in the stock of a company, a person should do their own due diligence, their own research, to learn about the company’s products, debts, stability.

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When it comes to researching Native American jewelry, it refers to the care a person takes in gathering factual details when selling or buying, whether in a brick and mortar store, in person, through Craig’s List, on eBay, etsy or another website.

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Due diligence should be done by the seller before an item is represented. In legal terms it is often said that “reasonable care” should be taken “by a reasonable person”. This implies that in some cases it is impossible to state absolute facts with certainty, but due diligence represents a seller’s very best effort at representation.

facts

However, there is a wide variety in sellers, some do Sherlock-like research, others hardly any at all and some knowingly misrepresent. Add to that, the fact that in the reference books available (and internet sources, don’t get me started), there are some accidental errors and some blatant falsifications which might mislead either a seller or buyer when researching.

due-diligence

Even hallmarks aren’t a perfect solution. First of all, they don’t appear on very old items and when they did start appearing, it is well known that an artist might change his or her hallmark several times over a lifetime, more than one artist might use the same hallmark, and then there are the forgeries that not only copy the piece, but the hallmark as well. So hallmarks are a piece of the puzzle but not definitive.

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Just like with stocks, it is best if a buyer does due diligence of their own before dealing with a particular seller and buying a Native American piece, especially if it is expensive.

rosieOnce both the seller and buyer have done their due diligence, a certain amount of gut feeling and trust or distrust will weigh in.

I’m using a rooster pin as an example of the various scenarios that might occur.

This vintage sterling silver and turquoise rooster pin came in a collection that consisted predominately of high quality verifiable Native American made items.

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Vintage Sterling Silver Rooster Pin

It tests positive for sterling silver. The clasp is a standard ring safety clasp that has been available since about the 1940s.

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Ring safety clasp

How the Pin Clasp Helps to Date the Piece

In doing research, a seller might come upon this almost identical pin on page 143 of the book Southwest Silver Jewelry and think “Great, this is a 1940s Pueblo pin and I’m going to ask $250 for it !! Whoo hoo !!”  But note the use of the words “possibly” and “probably” in the book caption.  And note the title of the book is “Southwest”, not Native American.

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page 143 Southwest Silver Jewelry

But  since the back of the pin is not shown in the book, the seller would not be able to compare the backs of the two pins which often gives important clues such as any hallmark or other stamping, the type of pin finding used, signs as to whether the pin was handmade or cast…………….

The seller CAN and SHOULD examine the pin he or she has for sale under high powered light and magnification.

due-diligence

The back of the pin clearly shows signs that it is a cast piece.

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Back of pin showing it is a cast piece.

With minimal cleaning, you can “read the fine print” it says “MADE IN MEXICO”

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Back of pin showing “MADE IN MEXICO”

What does this all mean?

First the obvious – the vintage sterling silver rooster pin is not Native American made, it was cast in Mexico.

Then the rest becomes a bit muddy………the pin in the book may or may not be NA made. It might be hand made or cast – to me it has the look of a cast piece.  It could be a cast Mexican pin.

Without being able to see the back of the pin in the book, it is a leap of faith to bank on the pin in the book being NA made. But if it IS, then that either means the Mexican pin is a copy.

OR………….

The Mexican pin might be the original and the pin in the book is a copy……..I just have no way of verifying one way or the other.

Bottom line, in our store, this pin will be listed in our “Bargain Barn” as a vintage sterling silver pin made in Mexico.

And I will hold the pin in the book suspect.

Detective-Girl

Paula

 

 

 

Is this necklace by Loloma?

Hello Paula, I have inherited several pieces of jewelry… Some Native American and Mexican…  Some silver/sterling silver.

I was wondering… do you know anything about the history of these? Are any by Loloma or of great value? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you J

Hi J,
You sent quite a few photos of quite a few items.
I’ll post some of the photos you sent with my comments and perhaps other readers will recognize some of the items and contribute their opinions.
Shell and either dyed shell or possibly coral spring wire bracelet - not Native American made.

Shell and probably dyed red shell or possibly coral in a spring wire bracelet with gold tone findings – not Native American made.

Bench bead and turquoise nugget necklace - likely Navajo made.

Bench bead and turquoise nugget necklace – likely Navajo made.

Silver and Lapis Link Bracelet - likley Mexican made

Silver and Lapis Link Bracelet – likely Mexican made

Tropical theme fetish style necklace - likley Mexican made

Tropical theme fetish style necklace – likely Mexican made

Melon shell and mosiac bead necklace - unknown origin

Melon shell and mosaic bead necklace – unknown origin

I’m guessing that you are asking if the above necklace was made by the late Charles Loloma, Hopi artist from the Badger Clan 1955-1991.

You sent this closeup of the mark by the STERLING stamp on the end cone. The mark looks like a fern to me.

PA210018

Loloma’s stamp is quite distinctive and different from what you show – here it is.

loloma hallmark

My gut feeling is that the necklace is not Native American made but I don’t have a lot of experience with the mosaic beads. Perhaps someone else recognizes them.

You can buy authentic vintage Native American jewelry in our Pawn Shop.

N194-SF-16-heishi-1

Paula

Are these items even Native American made?

Hi Paula
I am trying to find out any information about the two necklaces in the attached photo, like which Native American tribe may have made them (if they are indeed genuinely made by a Native American). It seems like you may be quite knowledgable about these things so if you have any ideas I’d love to hear them!
Kind regards
Heidi

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Hi Heidi,

Thank you. I am very interested and immersed in my work so I have gathered some knowledge about Native American jewelry over the years but there is so much more to know.  That’s why I like to post these questions here on this blog to attract comments from others.

The necklace on the right certainly seems like it could be Navajo made. It has the look of a sterling silver necklace, simple but similar in layout to a squash blossom necklace. When I enlarge the photo, the beads seem to be hand made, not bench beads. It is a very nice necklace which I feel pretty certain would have been Navajo made.

The necklace on the left however, although very attractive, does not seem to be Native American made. The first thing that caught my eye was the brass beads which say India to me. The horizontal brass spacers between the brass beads are also not a design element associated with Native American jewelry. It seems the long dark beads and the shorter tube beads are made from horn or bone, again something I’d tend to associate with India or Africa. The rondelle beads which make up the majority of the necklace also could be bone……or perhaps they and the shorter tube beads are some sort of ivory. These things are hard to tell from a single photo.

Of course, many things can be determined definitively when viewing an item in person – using one photo is just guesswork.

It will be interesting to see what other readers think.

Paula

Can you Identify this Dooney & Bourke bag for me please?

PLEASE VISIT MY NEW BLOG DEVOTED ENTIRELY TO VINTAGE DOONEY & BOURKE HANDBAGS http://vintagedooneybourke.wordpress.com/

Hi Paula

I was wondering if it was possible for you to identify the name of a vintage D&B AWL bag for me? I looked on your site with no match, and I was hoping as D&B enthusiasts you would be able to help me.
Many thanks,
Stephanie

Fake, Knock-Off, not a Dooney & Bourke Bag

Hi Stephanie,

That bag is a fake,- it is so bad that I can’t even call it a knock-off – there are so many signs just from the one photo that this is not a Dooney & Bourke bag.

First of all, Dooney & Bourke never made a style even remotely like this bag.

D&B never had a bag with braided trim like that.

The buckle affair on the front – another complete fabrication.

The way the shoulder strap is attached to the trigger snaps is not the way done by D&B.

Also the two tone thin shoulder strap is another dead giveaway that this is an imposter. The only D&B bag that had two tone straps was the Surrey line with a wide padded two tone strap.

The base of this bag looks like vinyl which makes me wonder if the entire bag is vinyl. Many of the fake D&B bags I’ve seen are made of vinyl, rather than All Weather Leather.

So it is the worst of the worst !

But thank you for checking before listing it on eBay as an authentic Dooney & Bourke bag. There are so many fakes like this and knock-offs that are being listed on eBay as authentic D&B bags, that unsuspecting buyers bid on them thinking they are getting a real Dooney.

Here is an authentic vintage Dooney & Bourke bag. You can read about characteristics of Dooney & Bourke handbags on our website.

Authentic Vintage Dooney & Bourke Carrier Handbag

Paula

Medicine Bag Questions and Answers

Paula,

Can additional small items be added to the medicine bags, or are most of them sealed?

and secondly, these are 100% made in USA by Native Americans correct?

Thank you! Wolf Man

Apache Wolf Claw Medicine Bag

Hello Wolf Man,

Yes, medicine bags are designed so that you can add your personal items to them. So 99.9% of the bags we sell are for carrying items, the size of the items will depends on the size of the bag.
There are only a few “sage bags”, those that are filled with sage and closed that would be difficult to open, empty and add things. Read the “Paula Says” comment on
to see which bags on that page you can empty of the sage and refill with your personal items.
All other bags are ready to be filled with your sacred objects.

Lakota Sage Bag

All of the bags in the top section of our Main Medicine Bag page
are made in the USA by Native American artists registered with a recognized (by the US government) tribe – the individual pages for each bag will will tell which tribe the artist belongs to.

Native American Made Medicine Bag

The ones in the Reproduction section toward the bottom of the page are made in the USA but by people who are not registered with a recognized (by the US govt.) tribe. Some of the artists there are Native Americans but just don’t have a government number so legally we have to call them Reproductions.

Large Reproduction Medicine Bag – made by an unregistered artist of Cherokee descent