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Buying Native American Arts and Crafts

Native American arts and crafts are held in a very high regard among collectors in the United States today. The broad range of pieces extends from jewelry to pottery using unique blends of colors and stones. These pieces hold a very high value because they are intricate and were made with extreme attention to detail. Because of their high value, there are opportunists out there that will counterfeit these pieces and sell them as if they were authentic. We have created a list of seven tips to avoid getting caught in a scam.

Native American Jewelry and Pottery

Native American Jewelry and Pottery

#1 - Getting What You Pay For

In order to protect consumers from unethical sellers of Native American pieces, the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 was passed therefore making it illegal to mislead customers into thinking that products were made by an Indian when they were not. For items created after 1935, the terms "Indian", "Native American", and "Alaska Native" cannot be used for marketing these items unless they are made by an Indian from a tribe that is recognized by the government. Also, one cannot make claims that the items they are selling are of Indian or a specific tribe's descent or heritage. Only certified Indian artisans can make such a claim because they are certified to make these items by a particular Indian tribe.

#2 - Buying Tips

One can find Native American arts and crafts in many places ranging from tourist shops to art installations. Three main tips should be taken into consideration when buying these products. First, one should purchase from a dealer that has a renowned reputation and can give you a guarantee and confirmation of authenticity in writing. Next, one should get a receipt with all of the information of the product written onto it. This includes every claim the salesperson made about the product as far as its genuineness. Finally, when visiting a Native American festivity such as a powwow or a fair, you should always check the event's requirements for vendors selling items. Many times you will find that the event requires them to include written verifications showing the items are authentic.

See article Native American Visual Art Culture

#3 - Identifying Authentic American Indian Jewelry

There are three main ways to identify authentic Native American jewelry. First is price. Generally speaking, authentic Indian jewelry tends to be very expensive due to the high quality and uniqueness that a tribe's influence extends to it. Second is appearance. Since Indian jewelry is made with high quality, counterfeits are usually very easy to spot. In particular, when images are stamped onto silver, they should be very clear. Blurriness in the images is a sign that it is an imitation product. Another thing to look for is a hallmark stamped onto the piece, because this is how Indians identify their work. Third and finally is that a trustworthy dealer will give you a guarantee of authenticity in writing. If they refuse to do this, then stay away from purchasing their items.

#4 - Metal of Preference - Silver

Silver is the most popular metal used by Native Americans in their jewelry. Much like the rest of the jewelry produced in the United States, only sterling may be used when classifying a product as silver. This simply means that it contains ninety-two and a half parts silver and the rest is other metals. Coin silver, which is ninety percent silver, is also used by Indians, as many have melted coins to cultivate their silver. German silver, which is not true silver, is also used by Indians and classified as so. This is because it has played a huge part in their cultural background. Finally, draw silver is also used by Indians. It's also referred to as liquid silver and is simply sterling that is pulled through a drawplate.

See article Native American Art In The Contemporary World

#5 - Stones and Stone Treatments

The six most used stones in Native American jewelry are carnelian, coral, lapis lazuli, onyx, shell, and turquoise. When using these stones in jewelry, they are often treated to alter their appearances. This can be done in many ways including dyeing, reconstituting, and stabilizing the stones. Dyeing is simply changing the color or making a particular color of a stone fuller. Reconstituting consists of pulverizing stones to for other natural shapes and figures. And stabilizing is used to either harden or enhance the color of the stone.

#6 - If You Have a Complaint

Whenever there are issues of misrepresented or counterfeited products, the sellers of these items can be reported to the FBI and Department of Justice for breaking the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. One can file a complaint at 1-888-ART-FAKE or visit the Indian Arts and Crafts Board website. Their address is 1849 C Street, N.W., MS 2058-M1B, Washington, D.C. 20240.

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