Thursday, November 08, 2012

Beautiful jewelry vs. authentic beautiful jewelry

I was doing a little web browsing myself today and I came across something both interesting - and unsettling.

Let me start by saying that jewelry doesn't have to be authentic Native American jewelry to be beautiful.

But, if you admire Indian jewelry because of its roots in Native America Indian culture, you ought to be told specifically, that "Southwestern jewelry" that "looks" Indian isn't Native American jewelry unless it is specifically described as Native American. It often isn't even American.

Unscrupulous jewelry dealers, who often advertise as being part of a "tribe" promote for sale jewelry that is no more Native American than an assembly line somewhere in Asia. Sure they "look" Native American". They often are sold as being Native American-made. But they are not. They are ripped-off copies of authentic Native American Indian work and designs.

In at least one case, they are being priced well above what similar genuine pieces would be priced at. I guess it is so they can advertise 60% savings. But that is 60% off inflated prices that far exceed the value of the jewelry. So the buyers think they are getting a "great deal". In fact, they are overpaying for cheap imitations.

In addition, the makers and sellers of this phony art are cheating real Native American artists out of their birthright, their culture and their livelihood.

How can you tell when you are being deceived and being sold phony goods?

First, be suspicious of any jewelry sold on a Native American website that looks Native American but is described as "Southwestern". If it is the real thing, it will say so. The law requires it. A huge discount is also is a red flag. No one in the jewelry trade sells for less than the merchandise costs them. The only way they can give huge 60% discounts and stay in business is by buying cheap imitations and/or charging inflated original prices.

Second, if it is contemporary jewelry, the maker should be identified by name. It will either be signed or have a hallmark.(Yes, there are some simpler jewelry styles that are mass-produced by Native Americans and don't get signed by individual artists. But they are not high-end pieces.)

Third, if in doubt at all, ask the seller straight-on, "Is this jewelry made by an enrolled Native American tribe member? What's his/her name." Even sneaky-Petes won't outright lie about it. But if you don't ask, you don't get an answer.

Fourth, look for the Indian Arts & Crafts Association (IACA) logo on the website. Members vouch not to misrepresent non-American Indian art as what it is not.

In the end, no one can tell you what to buy or who to buy from. But you should know what you are buying and what its real value is, or you will be cheated.


Anonymous said...

If it was purely an economic consideration, why would anyone buy for any purpose other than pure utilitarian value? In our opinion, the prestige and personal expression that a purchase adds to someone's life is worth something. But what is the value when the buyer/owner knows he or she is displaying a fraud? Do they value their self-respect and integrity so low that will trade it for a few dollars? If one can't afford or doesn't want to pay for the real thing, why would he or she buy a knock-off? Just buy some inexpensive costume jewelry.

William Waites said...

I agree. I don't know why anyone buys fake stuff. If you value the real thing, but the real thing. if authenticity is not important to you, buy the cheapest brand you can find. Just don't pretend you have purchased more than you actually have. That's my advice.