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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Paula