We have many people asking about buying Native American and Southwestern silver jewelry and we thought now is the time to come up with an informational article and some guidelines how buying works. First of all, please understand that we do not sell any Native American jewelry. We are collecting for our family museum and for preserving artifacts of this fascinating culture and history.
Before you can start buying Native American jewelry, there are two big questions coming up: do you buy to wear it and what is your budget? It is generally easier to buy jewelry to wear it rather than as an investment or for a collection.
Buy Native American & Southwestern Silver Jewelry For Yourself
Most people are buying jewelry for actively wearing it. This is making things way easier. It’s all about taste and budget and the good news is that there is really nice American and Southwestern silver jewelry available for EVERY budget. We are building our family collection since decades and we went through ups and downs; through times where buying great quality items was really affordable and trough times when prices became outrageous. If you love Native jewelry, you will find an outlet satisfying your love for nice pieces.
Buy Native American Jewelry From Estate Sales
Estates sales are a great place to look for vintage and antique Native American and Southwestern silver jewelry. Many estate sale companies don’t know much about Native jewelry and finding a great looking piece for little money is highly possible. We have bought many rings, pendants, necklaces and brooches for less than 30 dollars. Many Native American artists have used hard to identify markings. If you don’t have a tremendous knowledge about Indian jewelry, identifying those markings can get almost impossible. Remember, estate sale companies cannot effort to spend hours and hours for researching those silver stamps. They will rather put it for sale without knowing the artist and gladly accept your reasonable offer. Another thing to consider are markdowns, estate sales usually go two, three and sometimes four days. Most companies start dropping prices on day two and many companies give a 70% discount on the last day. Very often, Native American silver jewelry is still available on the last day and can get bought for a huge discount.
Buy Native American Jewelry From Antique Malls
Antique Malls can be a fruitful place for hunting Native American jewelry but they may come with negotiating headache. I was really rarely lucky to buy nice items for a reasonable price. One problem is that the owners of the offered jewelry is not physically present in those malls and have to be called by the mall operator. Very often, those folks are either not reachable or simply not willing to negotiate a good deal. You may want to join an email list of those malls. I know many malls having 20% off days on everything. That’s the day you want to set out. Sometimes, owners are present on high frequency days and that may give you a chance to negotiate a special rate.
But it also depends on the antique mall. I know about a place where the mall operator is also displaying many of his own items. In that particular case, the lady is willing to walk me around showing me her recently arrived Native American jewelry. I am than able to negotiate a deal with her. I was quiet lucky with that strategy and I love to come back on a regular basis with the certainty that I will not leave without buying something. One of my nicest pieces I bought in the last three years is coming from that antique mall. It is a Navajo artist made bear claw belt buckle. I was lucky to get into that piece for 700 dollars – without negotiating.
Establish buying connections if you are (a) a serious buyer and (b) a buyer who is buying very often and constantly expanding the collection. Believe me, sellers will not forget you if you are coming in frequently. My established buying outlets are the main places where I am expanding my personal collection.
Smaller Local Auction Houses
Local auction houses may be a good source for nice Native American Jewelry. Yes, it is time consuming as those auction places are usually liquidation estates and bankrupt entities. They usually don’t have the time to describe and list items accurately. You may have to go there to check the items before you want to place a bid. It’s a great way to buy Native American jewelry but a time consuming one. But if you know some local auction houses, give it a try. I bought quite a few very nice things for very little money. Every once in a while, I even find pretty rare pieces that my local auction house was not able to describe properly. It really can be a bargain source.
Buy High-End Native American Jewelry
This is probably my favorite topic as I got very selective over the last years. I even sold Native American Jewelry off to downsize my collection. It was not about the money but rather about narrowing down our collection to fewer but higher quality pieces. I decided to go very selective when we bought another display for our house. We had 12 showcases spread out in our house and we felt that we may want to have fewer displayers; fewer displays but higher quality Native American art. We don’t only collect jewelry although this is what we mainly collect. We also own masks, woven blankets, original photos and decorative items.
Most of the items I got passed down from my father are already highest quality pieces and nothing was sold off from the old days but from what I added to the family heritage, almost 50% of those items sold off. Not because I made a buying mistakes. It’s not about that because the more affordable jewelry is what I used to wear very often. My taste hasn’t changed but my daily routine has. I’m now retired and not working in our shop anymore. We don’t dine out often nor do we attend social events. I simply don’t wear it at home and thus I decided to sell some of the items I used to wear and replacing it with items I would rather put in our displays. My taste also changed a bit and me and my family we simply love to live with Native American Jewelry in our house.
Buy Native American Jewelry From High-End Auction Houses
Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips are the top 3 US auction places for fine art. You can buy Native American Jewelry from all of those auction companies if you join their mailing list or if you have a subscription for their printed auction catalogs. Remember, you buy high-end jewelry there and you may buy very unfrequently because you usually spent at least a couple of thousand dollars. Those companies only take highest quality items for consignment. I was recently in contact with Christie’s to offer a very important Navajo necklace for sale. It’s a client’s piece and not fitting my collecting why I am doing the selling marketing for her. Christie’s would accept her piece but they reserve the right to at least charge you $750 for the consignment process – even if your item is NOT selling; thus they will only accept top-notch quality merchandise. Consider that when you plan a new purchase. Even a lower estimate piece may get out of control hitting another new auction record.
Buy Southwestern Jewelry From an Appraiser’s Connection
Appraisers are usually the first to know about a nice piece that may hit the market. A smart seller would always consult an appraiser to get a rough idea about the value of Navajo, Zuni, Hopi or other Native American Jewelry. But be careful there are many very unreliable jewelry appraisers around. They are giving super high estimates knowing that your item will never-ever sell for that. They are doing that to have a justification for the high bill they are writing. That may be very dangerous for a potential, unskilled buyer. They see a super high estimate but in ratio to that, a pretty low asking price. Thinking that there are about to buy into a bargain, the deal will be done. I have seen Native American jewelry being priced so outrageous high that even buying at 10% of the appraised value would have been a very expensive purchase.
But if you know a few reliable appraisers, establishing a very good relationship couldn’t hurt. You will run into a great item every once in a while opening up a potentially great buying opportunity. So keep that in mind and build yourself a small network of appraisers you frequently check in. They will remember you and refer sellers to you. Don’t forgot to (a) never lowball and (b) to pay a generous “Thank You” bounty to the referring appraisers.
I cannot stress than enough BUT knowing what you are doing is the key. If you really plan on building a nice Native American Jewelry collection, it is extremely important to gain fundamental knowledge. You may even specialize in Navajo, Hopi or another tribe you find appealing. You may also specialize in a special time-period or in a certain type of jewelry. I know about a lady, and she is only collecting coral items. it is really up to you. Good luck for your collecting venture.