Be wary when collecting native items

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Several years ago at a Pennsylvania flea market, an acquaintance proudly showed my wife and me a very excellent, mint, glittering flint specimen of an effigy resembling a foot wide spread winged eagle. This person also had many other perfect specimens of Indian artifacts, too perfect, too clean. He was quite certain these items were authentic.

Collecting artifacts relating to the American natives is an engaging, educational and attractive hobby.

This interest reveals the history of America, the tribes and their diversity.

However, before anyone gets too zealous, a word of caution to the novice:

Non-native Americans have delved into the field of manufacturing artifact replicas, so precise and accurate buyers could be quite easily fooled by these reproductions.

Before you spend hard-earned cash for a specimen so perfect it looks new and unused, which it more than likely is, ask someone knowledgeable if possible or check whatever literature available.

Even flint exposed to the soil or climate elements reveals some patina of age. If an item is too attractive to be genuine, it probably isn’t genuine.

During our many ventures to shows locally and out West, I’ve seen quite a number of reproduction artifacts on sale; some items were acknowledged as such by the dealer as such, some were not.

Many of the reproductions are sawed via diamond blades, therefore no marks are found. Aging in the soil and weather plus various chemicals can give an item an antique finish. If an artifact is quite expensive, ask questions, buy from an established dealer or get advice from some one knowledgeable in the field.

Lots of new turquoise. A visit to the Grand Canyon region will show native vendors selling turquoise jewelry and specimens by the truck load.

Very little, if any, antique jewelry is for sale; it is mostly newly manufactured or mined gems.

Turquoise is more easily determined whether it’s new or old. In many instances, the matrix is different in texture and therefore certain regions associated with the item. Also if mounted on silver, older specimens were hand-shaped and hammered, the newer is more smooth and with little or no marks.

A word of caution – if an item appears too new and perfect, be careful.

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