Stop Counterfeiters and Fraudsters on eBay with the VRO Program

Have you spotted fraudulent listings on eBay? You might find this information interesting and useful. Especially if you are an artist whose work is being copied and the seller is using your name or hallmark to describe and sell the item, you need to read this.

It has been frequently brought to our attention that sellers on eBay have used our copyrighted photos or information from our website to fraudulently list items for sale.

Horsekeeping LLC

At first I just contacted the seller, giving him or her the benefit of the doubt, figuring some people just don’t KNOW what they are doing.

Well, I’d say in about 10% of the cases, the seller, somewhat embarrassed at being caught in the act, apologized profusely, removed our copyrighted items and changed their listing.

Another 10% wrote back with rude remarks and denial and didn’t change anything.

The other 80% just didn’t reply at all.

So then my MO changed to using the Report Item link which is located on the eBay item page way over to the right above Item Description.

Although that made me feel like I was doing something official, that process usually yielded no result in my personal experience.  Maybe one or two instances over the years resulted in a removal of the item.

Then I discovered the Verified Rights Owner Program on eBay.

Basically this program is designed to eliminate these infringements:

Trademark infringement
A trademark is a unique sign (such as a name, word, phrase, logo, or symbol) that a company uses to identify its products or services. For example, eBay is the name of our company, but it’s also a trademark used on our site and on various eBay products. Trademark laws are primarily designed to protect consumers from confusing one company’s goods or services with those of another.

Replica and counterfeit
It’s illegal to sell counterfeits, fakes, or replicas of brand-name items. We don’t allow these items to be sold on eBay.

Example

  • Items that weren’t made by the manufacturer but the items are labeled with the brand, like a purse that has a Burberry label on it but wasn’t made by Burberry.

Brand name misuse
You may not use brand names in your listing if the product isn’t manufactured by or compatible with that brand. You may use “compatible with,” “fits,” or “for” before a brand name if the item you are describing is specifically designed to be compatible with the products of that brand.

Examples

  • A generic case made for an iPhone uses the brand name “Apple”.
  • Listing an adidas shoe and adding the brand name “Nike”.

Logo misuse
If you include logos in your listing descriptions, make sure you’re authorized to use them. Using someone’s logo without permission is a violation of trademark laws and can be misleading for buyers. Creating a logo that’s similar to someone else’s can also be a trademark infringement.

Example

  • Listing a branded item and including logos in your description or images without authorization.

 

Every time I have used the VRO Program to report an item, not only is the item removed but the seller has been removed in some cases as well.

This is an effective tool to get fraudulent items and sellers removed from eBay. I haven’t heard much talk about it on Facebook or groups, so I wanted to be sure that artists and eBay watchers are aware of it.

Paula

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

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

 

IMG_1867_1024x1024@2x

 

Native American jewelry enthusiasts, collectors, wholesalers and retailers alike often refer to Bille Hougart’s book (Native American and Southwestern Silver Hallmarks, 4th Edition) as the “bible” and the most useful book on identifying Native American hallmarks.

This 8 1/2″” x 11″ fat paperback has 507 pages.

The bulk of the book, pages 34-416, consists of an alphabetical (usually by last name) list of artists. In many cases there is a photo of the hallmark along with biographical information such as tribal affiliation, birth date, types of jewelry usually made, family member of note and more.

 

Example of interior pages

There is a 10 page section in the front of the book that discusses the history and function of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

Following there are discussions of:

The Hopi Silver Craft Guild

The Navajo Arts and Crafts Guild

United Indian Traders Association

The back matter contains an alphabetical listing of marks. This list is of the actual marks, different from the body of the book which is alphabetical by artists’ last names. This makes several ways to find who a mark belongs to.

Then there is 42 page section of symbol marks by category such as Paws, Sun etc.

To complete this essential work, there is a

Glossary

Acronym List

Bibliography

Useful Addresses

and an index.

If you have interest in Native American jewelry and need to identify hallmarks, this book is essential.

To order contact Bille Hougart

Paula

What is a Native American Hallmark?

What is a Native American Hallmark?

Native American jewelry is art and as such, it is often signed by the artist. This signature is called a hallmark.

A hallmark can be a stamp, that is, an impression made into the sterling silver (or other material) by holding a die on the silver and striking the die with a hammer. Depending on the temperature of the silver, the integrity of the die, the force of the blow, the steadiness of the hands, and other factors, the resulting stamped hallmark will range from faint to deep, from fuzzy to clear.

smith

Navajo Silversmith

Stamped hallmarks can be all types of letters in various fonts as well as pictures and symbols.

Another way Native American artists sign pieces is by using an engraver, also called and “electric pencil”.

Engraving Pen 003

“Electric Pencil” or Engraving Pen

Zuni artists use this method to write out an entire name, or at least the last name, and often Zuni, NM too. Fetish carvers use an engraver to sign their mini sculptures and depending on the size of the base, they might be initials or a full name.

In addition to individual symbol hallmarks, Shop and Guild marks are used. Shop and Guild marks (and there are many) are usually an image such as a bell (Bell Trading for example) or a sunface (a Hopi mark).

When a piece has a shop mark it is hard to identify which specific artist did the work, and in many cases, it is a collaborative effort – one person does the silversmithing, one does stone setting, another inlays etc. With shop hallmarks, it is impossible to guarantee that the work has been done by a Native American artist as shops can employ anyone.

With Guilds, however, it is almost certain that the work is Native American because membership in the guild is usually based on tribal affiliation.

Why are Native American hallmarks important?

In many cases, the hallmark on a piece of Native American jewelry is the only definitive proof that a particular item was made by a particular person. But even this is not foolproof because counterfeiters copy hallmarks onto their foreign-made, faux Native American items. The very best way to use hallmarks is in conjunction with paperwork, provenance, point of purchase, quality of workmanship and materials, the artist’s style and other factors that an experienced eye will see.

Why is it Difficult to Identify Native American Hallmarks?

Native American hallmarks are not an exact science. A number of factors make hallmark identification difficult:

1.  Several artists might use the same hallmark. For example, over 20 Native American artists have used S for their hallmark.

2.  An artist might change his or her hallmark several times during a lifetime. The late Tommy Singer, for example, has used the following hallmarks (all stamped). Perhaps there are even more:

Thomas Singer hallmark

One of Tommy Singer’s hallmarks

T

S TC

T with a crescent moon

S with a crescent moon

S T and a crescent moon

THOMAS SINGER

T. SINGER

T. Singer

T. Singer (in cursive)

3.  Family members might use a (famous) father’s, mother’s, brother’s, uncle’s or cousin’s hallmark. As an example, you will see this in the Iule family (known for their crosses) and the Effie Calavaza family (known for Zuni Snake bracelets and other snake items).

NPC697-AB-lg-turq-iule-A

Iule cross

BOL21-turq-snake-calavaza-5

EFFIE C. hallmark on a vintage bolo

NR382-snake-turq-coral-effie-1

This contemporary ring also has the EFFIE C. hallmark but is likely made, at least in part, by the family of Effie Calavaza.

4.  Native Americans that sell jewelry at trade shows and fairs but do not make the jewelry themselves have told us that the associations hosting the event require that all items must be authentic Native American made and hallmarked. So when we asked about some of the hallmarks on the pieces we saw, we were told “Joe XXXX doesn’t used a hallmark on his jewelry. We just put something on his pieces because we were told we had to in order to sell it at the powwow so we used this hallmark “xyz”.” True story. Names changed.

5.  Depending how well the hallmark is placed onto the silver, it may or may not be readable and could be confused with another hallmark.

6. Sometimes a piece will inadvertently not get marked. We’ve often purchased 6 similar pendants directly from an artist only to get home to see that 5 have hallmarks and one does not.

When did hallmarks first appear?

Native American artists haven’t always used hallmarks.  Early items in the First Phase period usually had no hallmarks because the items were made for personal or family use, not for sale.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s the few hallmarks that appeared were made by chisel marks

In the 1950s, the Navajo Guild, among others, encouraged hallmark use by its members.

During the Native American jewelry boom of the 1970s, hallmarks kicked into full swing and their use continues to this day on the majority of jewelry items.

And yet the bottom line is:

Many authentic Native American made pieces have no hallmarks. The majority of stone necklaces (heishi, nugget etc) do not have hallmarks. The same goes for many silver bead necklaces. However, If silver beads are large enough, sometimes the artist will stamp the last bead up by the clasp with a hallmark.

tso-sig-bead-150w

Hallmark of Virginia Tso on Navajo Pearls

Alternatively, silver and stone necklaces might have a signature plate.

singer-bamboocoral-6

Signature plate on a stone necklace.

Items like twist bracelets, for example, just do not have a flat place to add a hallmark.

half inch heavy classic twist bracelet

Classic Navajo Sterling Silver Twist Bracelet AKA the Horse Whisperer bracelet

But what’s particularly bad is that some pieces with seemingly authentic hallmarks are on pieces that are not NA made.

How can you learn about the hallmark on your piece?

BOOKS – A number of books have been written identifying stamped hallmarks. You can purchase the books or look for them in your library. Here are a few:

Native American and Southwestern Silver Hallmarks

Hougart

Hallmarks of the Southwest (A Schiffer Book for Collectors)

bartonAmerican Indian Jewelry I, II, III by Gregory and Angie Schaaf

AmIndianJewelry-set-500w

Hopi Silver: The History and Hallmarks of Hopi Silversmithing

hopi

WEBSITES – There are also some websites that list hallmarks.  Here is one to get you started, but you can search on the internet to find more.

Indian Native American Jewelry Artists  & South West Shop Hallmarks

hallmark sample

Hallmark samples from a website

You can browse our website and use the search link at the top of most pages to search for your hallmark. If we have or have had an item with that hallmark you will be able to find it on our site.

Once you have exhausted all sources and still can not find the hallmark on your piece, you could submit it as a question through our website. In addition to the resources above, we can sift through our memories and look through our hand compiled lists to see if we can help. But, we receive quite a few questions every week so it will likely be 30-60 days before your question is answered.

Paula

To view our full list of articles or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here

http://www.horsekeeping.com/native-american-jewelry-artifacts.htm

If you are selling your jewelry, read this

http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn-buying.htm

Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping

http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn/pawnshop-vin.htm

Native American Artist and Hallmark Books

Hi Paula,

Is there some kind of publication that gives information on Navajo silversmiths similar to the publication on fetishes?

This is a family heritage that should be preserved .

Thanks.  Ruth D

Hi Ruth,

Great question. Here are the books I know of that name artists, give their hallmarks, a little bio and sometimes some examples of their work. We have many other books here on Native American jewelry but these are the ones I refer to most often to research estate and pawn items. I’m sure there are more that other readers might suggest.

Hallmarks of the Southwest
Barton Wright
9″ x 11″ hardbound book
271 pages
Has drawn hallmarks and brief bio of many Navajo, Zuni and Hopi artists

Native American and Southwestern Silver Hallmarks
Billie Hougart
9″ x 6″ paperback book
519 pages
Has photos of hallmarks and brief bios of many Navajo, Zuni and Hopi artists. Read review by clicking here

Hougart

Hopi Silver: The History and Hallmarks of Hopi Silversmithing
Margaret Nickelson Wright
9 1/2″ x 6 3/4″ paperback book
147 pages
Has 73 page history with photos
The balance of the book is a Chronological Listing of Hopi Artists and Hallmarks. Hallmarks are drawn

American Indian Jewelry I: 1,200 Artist Biographies
Gregory Schaaf
11″ x 9″ hardbound book
342 pages
Highly illustrated with black and white and color photos of jewelry and artists. Bios range from a few sentences to a few pages.

American Indian Jewelry II: A-L  1,800 Artist Biographies
Gregory Schaaf
11″ x 9″ hardbound book
400 pages
Highly illustrated with mostly color photos of jewelry and artists. Bios range from a few sentences to a few pages.

American Indian Jewelry III M-Z

AmIndianJewelry-III-300w

Reassessing Hallmarks of Native Southwest Jewelry: Artists, Traders, Guilds, and the Government
Pat Messier and Kim Messier
8.5 x 1 x 11.2 inches hardbound
144 pages

The intensive research undertaken for this valuable book properly identifies forty-five Native American silversmiths and their hallmarks found on Southwest jewelry. Most of the marks date prior to the 1970s and some as early as the 1920s, along with the marks of traders, guilds, and the government. This fascinating read also provides the stories of the artists and institutions represented by these marks. Over 275 color and black-and-white images illustrate the marks in situ on the jewelry, along with images of artists, trading posts, and guild ads. The text explains why and when these marks were used. Among the important Navajo, Hopi, and Pueblo silversmiths whose lives and artworks are explored are Grant Jenkins, Fred Peshlakai, Juan De Dios, Da-Pah, Awa Tsireh, and others. The majority of the talented Indian silversmiths represented here left their homes on the reservation in the early twentieth century to work in cities and tourist venues. The profiles presented also feature a handful of contemporary artists who are recognized as master silversmiths.

51qHZyx84AL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Paula

Over 100 Hallmark Queries in the last few weeks !

All of a sudden everyone has been wondering about hallmarks !! I’ve received a steady stream of queries since early November so I am going to post my standard reply here.

With that said, I am an enormously busy elf with Christmas right around the corner…..so it will be well after the New Year before I will have the opportunity to begin replying to hallmark queries again.

I wish I had a clone or two so I could do everything !

Here is the standard reply I send out to hallmark queries so you have a head’s up as to how the process works…….Paula

Hello!

Thank you for your question about your Native American jewelry. Because we have a high volume of questions, I’ve put together a general response. Please ignore the portions that don’t apply to your situation.

We answer questions about Native American items on our blog – photos are required to illustrate the post.

We don’t do appraisals via email and photos.  If you are selling your piece, read on.

Whether your are asking a question or want to sell, you can send your specific questions along with 1 or 2 medium sized photos only of the item and hallmark (to the email address I supply when you send a query).

Guidelines for sending photos are outlined here.

If your email is larger than 1000 KB, it will go to SPAM due to our email rules and we will not receive it or see your photos. So please just send one or two reasonably sized photos to start. If I need more I will ask for them.

Please name the photos so we have a person’s name or item name to tie the photo to your email.

Please let us know if you are asking for your personal information or because you want to sell the piece.

If you are selling, this article will be helpful to read.

We answer theses queries as time allows on this blog. We usually only answer questions that have good quality photos to accompany the post. The questions are answered in the order they are received and there are usually about 30 queries in the queue.

Unfortunately, we won’t have time to answer queries over the Holidays but we look forward to corresponding with you in the New Year !

Paula, Manager
Horsekeeping  www.horsekeeping.com