Buying Native American Jewelry: Part 3 – Quality Craftsmanship

Hopi Ladies' Bracelet

Our final topic in this series will cover craftsmanship.  When buying anything handmade, you are sure to find pieces made by highly skilled artists who have spent years perfecting their craft, as well as pieces by silversmiths who may be just starting out or who make jewelry only as a hobby.  Train your eye to look for those little signs that turn a piece from a souvenir into an investment.

Old Town Jewels

Uneven cutting and sharp curves

I always look at the back of jewelry first.  I want to see how it’s constructed before I set my heart on it.  Are the silver pieces cut and filed smoothly?  Are they symmetrical?  Is the piece neatly soldered and polished, or has it got spill over marks from too much solder?  Is the weight of the piece appropriate for its use, or does it feel flimsy?

Old Town Jewels

Solder mark

When I’m happy that basic skills are good, then I look at the front.  Is everything there?  Seems like a funny question, but silversmiths are human, and might have accidentally left out a necessary part of the design.  Are the stones smooth and well set?  If you’re shopping for earrings or watch tips, do the two pieces match each other?  If you’re looking for super quality, see if the silversmith created the bezels, such as on the Joe Quiyo bracelet (top), or if the pendant has a decorated bail instead of plain.

Old Town Jewels

Look closely – 2 silver drops are missing!

 

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the beauty of a design that catches your eye, but take a moment to check the craftsmanship.  Good quality never goes out of style, and will keep you happy with your purchase for years to come.

Men's Navajo Bolo Tie

Perfect saw cutting and stamp work by Navajo Henry Yazzie

Let us know if there are other topics you’d like to learn more about!  We’d be happy to cover those in future columns!

by diane radeke

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