Friday, March 18, 2016

Flashback Friday - Native American Jewelry

This post was originally published on October 8, 2007.

Native American Jewelry

I seem to have inherited an appreciation for Native American jewelry from my mother. She was a big fan of turquoise and used to wear a costume jewelry version of a squash blossom necklace, in plastic "turquoise" and silver-plated metal, because she couldn't afford the real thing. I regret not buying one for her when she was still alive and I made enough money to spend on such a worthwhile extravagance. Every one I see brings a little pang of "coulda shoulda woulda" guilt to my heart.

When I worked for the buffoons guys at the jewelry store in the early 90s, I was lucky enough to have done a "for sale" appraisal (what we'd pay for the stuff, basically a low wholesale value) on a lot of jewelry that included some nice turquoise pieces. The store did not sell silver jewelry and after the purchase was made, the turquoise was relegated to the scrap pile (mostly miscellaneous gold mountings that had the stones removed). I jumped on the two sterling bracelets and one non-sterling sandcast cuff and offered to buy them for the same amount my employers paid. Sold! A nice start to my personal collection for about $9.

I perhaps should have invested in more jewelry the first time my husband and I visited New Mexico on our honeymoon. I did come away with a remarkably heavy cuff fashioned from a solid bar of silver and adorned with symbols representing a rainbow legend. And I wish I had bought the giant inlaid bear fetish pendant at the Taos Pueblo. On our most recent trip to that lovely state, in September, I made a point to look at as much jewelry as I could. Overload ensued, as so much of the jewelry being produced now looks the same to me, most especially when laid out in row after row on blankets at the feet of Native Americans in front of Santa Fe's Palace of the Governors.

I got a tip from my friend Chris that I should check out the jewelry in Old Town Albuquerque before heading to Santa Fe, as I would certainly find better bargains there. And she was right. Neal and I ventured into Skip Maisel's and were dazzled by the vast collection of native-made jewelry, all at 50% off retail. This sterling and opal inlay ring cost me a whopping $12.

This large turquoise and sterling ring was $36. (Obviously not shown actual size.)

I wistfully eyed the squash blossom pieces with their elegantly-curved naja pendants and the modern needlepoint turquoise and coral necklace and earring combos, but kept my purchases to the two rings. No need to overdo it, after all.

For those of you out there who share my interest, I recommend eBay as a good place to find old Native American jewelry. Modern pieces as well. Be aware, however, of the elaborate inlaid sterling pieces that have prices that seem too good to be true: they are not old, nor are they native-made. In most cases, the stones are man-made as well. If you read through the descriptions, these facts will be noted by those dealers who are honest and scrupulous in their transactions. I have bought several of these items because, hey, the real stuff is really expensive! And these replicas are so pretty; although not native-made, the inlay work is extremely intricate and well-done.

If you have a particularly nice piece of Native American jewelry you'd like to share pictures of, I'd be very happy to look!

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