Monday, August 31, 2009

Is your Calvin Begay really Calvin Begay?

This report is offered by Aboriginals: Art of the First Person, purveyors of fine tribal art at,, and, where we sell authentic, and only authentic, Calvin Begay jewelry.

Calvin is one of our our favorite jewelry artists. We have been offering his work for years.

Now, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reports that fakes purporting to be Calvin's work have shown up in at least one Santa Fe Native Art store.

Actually, we are not too surprised. Whenever an artist reaches the renown that Calvin has, he or she becomes a target for counterfeiters.

Calvin's history makes him a more vulnerable target than most.

He has been an atelier artist, in the tradition of such famous atelier masters as Michelangelo and DaVinci. This approach to art includes a number of “sous-chefs” that work on the master's designs under the master's supervision. It also allows the artist to influence and produce more work than if he or she was working on his or her own.

For a while, Calvin worked with A Touch of Santa Fe in Gallup, using a skilled staff of silversmiths and lapidary artists.

Almost all the work designed and made there carried both Calvin's signature ant the TSF stamp.

A few years back, Calvin and TSF went separate ways. Well, at least Calvin did. TSF continued to use Calvin's designs and some of his silversmiths and lapidary artists. The company also continued to identify the pieces as Calvin's work.

This ended when Calvin insisted that they stop and he moved to a new studio to create his work.

For a short interim period, there were pieces that were designed by Calvin but did not carry his signature. But it was a very limited number. It is identified by the precision of the inlay. Work done after Calvin left is definitely inferior.

Now, as indicated, there has been a gallery in Santa Fe selling work that it said was done by Calvin but he says was not.

According to the New Mexican newspaper, when a piece purchased at the store was shown to Calvin he said it was not his but was similar.

“TSF continues to use my designs,” Calvin claimed. “although I have instructed the business not to use my name stamp.”

The New Mexico Consumer Protection Division has sued the dealer, accusing them of manufacturing and selling pieces of jewelry that were falsely represented as having been made by Calvin. They also were accused of giving illegal discounts.

There is a moral to most stories.

This one is to always deal with dealers you know and trust. Be suspicious of “bargain” prices. Ask specific questions to get specific answers. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are a hundred-to-one it isn't true.

Aboriginals Gallery and our Native-JewelryLink web site absolutely guarantees that any piece we represent as being Calvin Begay's is Calvin Begay's. The same is true for any piece of jewelery or art we offer.

If a buyer is unhappy with their purchase from us after receiving it, we will return 100% of the purchase price.

And those prices are low because we are an exclusive online dealer, with the low overhead of the internet.

Update: New Mexico Attorney General has settled the fraud case against Santa Fe stores selling fake Calvin Begay jewelry. Store owners will pay restitution and a $10,000 fine, plus reimburse other purchasers who bought jewelry misrepresented as being the work of Calvin Begay. To qualify, submit the actual item along with an invoice or receipt to Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, Jewelry Restitution Program, P.O. Drawer 1508, Santa Fe, NM 87504.

We recommend that you photograph and insure your piece(s) in order to track them after sending to the AG

Update: We received a letter from the Indian Arts and Crafts Board of the US Department of Interior announcing their joint efforts with the New Mexico Attorney General to shut down the sale of fake Indian arts and crafts. We say "bravo". It's about time.


Anonymous said...

wow what an interesting blog, and I have only just found out about this amazing artist, I have come across a belt in my collection, I listed on ebay
Such beautiful work x

Rhys Tal Cernunnos said...

I'm not surprised on the fakes, but it does make me sad. I recently was given a silver opal dragonfly marked by O. Charleston... now I'm wondering if such an artist exits and if it's even that artist's work.

Anonymous said...

How does one actually determine if an unsigned piece is Calvin's, or not? Is there someone/someplace where we can submit a photo of front and back and have a judgement about its authenticity? My piece was represented as Calvin Begay's and it has "TSF", "Sterling", and "EY" stamped on the back, but not his signature. The piece is an opal-inlay gekko.