Imitation Native American Jewelry Thoughts of a Navajo Silversmith

Imitation or Fake Native American Jewelry is a problem in the southwest silver jewelry industry. In this video George Francis, an expert Navajo silversmith, give his thoughts on this subject along with some great real examples to illustrate this problem.

What are your thoughts on Imitation Native American jewelry?

“I don’t care for them but they serve a purpose. They serve a niche. When we say ‘imitation’ some people almost look down on that. The price of silver has escalated and has caused a problem for those of us in the business and those that readily afford it. Here are some examples of imitation items. They all look very Southwest. It’s made on nickel. Notice that I say ‘nickel’ and I don’t say nickel silver; there’s no such thing as silver being a part of this other than color.

“As we look we see a lot of costume jewelry being sent into the country. I acquired this piece just for show. It’s supposed to have turquoise but (it’s made of) plastic. The metal that’s being used is nickel. This is being sold as Southwest jewelry.

“Here’s another imitation. I don’t know exactly where it came from. There’s nothing silver about it other than the color. It’s stamped sterling and that will mislead you– it is unscrupulous for people to do this but they do it. This piece here is made out of nickel and nothing else. But it is stamped sterling so it’s misleading, and it has a Southwest motif on it. This piece here is also stamped sterling underneath and it is made completely out of nickel. It has no silver at all other than the color of it.

“Sometimes we find pieces that are called ‘silver plating’. There is no ‘silver plating’ in this… it is a silver tone plating, denoting the color only. For example: gold tone, ‘gold plating’. It’s something you have to be careful of. If it were gold plating we would need to know what karat. In order for it to be authentic gold it needs to be 10 karats or higher, so normally if it’s plated it will denote that. In this case where it’s silver, not silver plating, it’s silver tone plating. People need to be aware of that.

“Inauthentic products are a detriment to everybody because the costs are very low, compared to silver and metal costs, which are very different. Some people want that, and that’s what we’ll give them if they need it.”

– George Francis, Navajo silversmith