Q:

How do you authenticate vintage Navajo jewelry?

A:

Quick Answer

Authenticate vintage Navajo jewelry by the investigating the reputation of the seller, checking the seller’s membership in tribal trade organizations and examining characteristics of the piece's silver and stones. Reputable sellers often belong to tribal societies such as the Antique Tribal Arts Dealer Association, which hold its members to extremely high standards. They also usually seek to educate customers and freely offer information. Sellers who hesitate to provide information or photographs should raise suspicions.

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Full Answer

An inspection of the metal should reveal expert hand craftsmanship. Navajo artists did not have access to machinery and used somewhat primitive tools to produce near-perfect results. There should be an occasional irregularity or imperfection in the pattern of teeth forming the setting for a stone or some other irregularity indicating hand work. Pieces should feel heavy and some may include the initials or hallmark of the artist. Some may be stamped “Old Pawn.”

Vintage silver should have developed a patina and may even appear black. However, silver oxidizes quickly and can be made to look vintage, while genuine vintage silver may have been polished by a well-intentioned seller. For these reasons, this criterion alone cannot be used to authenticate a piece, but it may be a factor in the overall determination.

The stone in a piece of jewelry should also be examined. Genuine turquoise should have a silvery-white, almost metallic matrix forming irregular patterns. Vintage turquoise often develops a hazy, green-tinted coating. Stones in which the matrix is nearly perfect or the stone color is too blue may indicate the use of block turquoise or plastic.

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