Do people still wear that?
December 28, 2011 10:37 PM   Subscribe

I inherited a bunch of Native American jewelry (several hundred pieces in total) several years ago. I'm thinking about selling some of it, but I'm not sure of the value. Do I need to find a specialist to appraise it? Can you recommend one near St. Louis?

The pieces vary a lot in style and level of craftsmanship. Most are turquoise. Some are coral. Some are traditional. Some aren't.
posted by DaddyNewt to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't recommend a specialist, but if it were me I'd find one. These might be original (or might be mass-marketed) pieces called "old pawn." More specifically, the necklaces are squash blossom necklaces. Someone who knows old pawn or jewelry from Pueblo, Zuni, and Navajo tribes may be able to identify the pieces based on marks, the silver content, the materials used (coral versus turquoise), and the turquoise itself (to find which mine it likely came from). Old pawn is very collectible, and yes people wear them.
posted by Houstonian at 4:07 AM on December 29, 2011

(Oh, and don't try to clean/shine the pieces up before an appraisal or sale.)
posted by Houstonian at 4:10 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am an antique dealer, although this is not my area of expertise. I think you have some interesting pieces, most of which are pretty sellable. If I had those pieces for sale, I'd be pretty stoked. There is some nice vintage designs there, good-looking coral, and they look good.

Without seeing them in person, it's hard to be sure, but I would suspect the middle squash blossom necklace is the oldest and most valuable - but maybe not earlier than the 1930s and probably later. It's hard to tell from a picture and not being able to touch the pieces, so I could be way off.

I would definitely get these appraised, and I would strongly consider insuring them.

This .pdf is the National Museum of the American Indian's resource on appraisals. If you have a local museum with southwestern items, you might want to call their research group and see if they recommend local appraisers or auction house/appraisers.
posted by julen at 6:54 AM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh the pace of my heart just picked up substantially! Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap. Yes. People still wear that. I do on a weekly if not daily basis. Then again, I'm from New Mexico originally and what you've got is mostly Navajo and Zuni pieces pictured.

Yes, you have squash blossom necklaces. They really aren't squash blossoms though they're called that. It is a stylized pomegranate which was a motif introduced to the pueblo tribes by the Conquistadors when they first came to the Southwest. Of the three, I suspect the smallest one is the newest but the one with coins may be the most valuable. It is unusual to see the coins in place of the blossoms and the simplicity of that necklace is beautiful.

Some of your rings look quite old, even accounting for the fact that they haven't been cleaned in forever. In addition to the resources julen just pointed you to, I'd check with the staff at the St. Joseph Museum because they have a large collection of Native American artifacts. Otherwise, you might find it worth your time to head out to NM where there are lots of experienced people who could help you. I don't know who is the best in NM to appraise estate jewelry. However, I would start with the guys at Palms Trading in Albuquerque. They could point you in the right direction and may have someone in house.
posted by onhazier at 7:00 AM on December 29, 2011

do you have an idea of what tribe? You might try the government offices of that tribe for an expert.

What about calling a musuem to ask where to find an expert? National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City might be a place to start.

This is a bizarre little place, Mohawk Lodge, with a very collection of items. they may be able to help you locate someone. She deals with people all over the United States.

And yes people wear this stuff all the time, particularly in certain areas of the country, like the southwest.
posted by domino at 7:02 AM on December 29, 2011

I have been in this business since 1972. I can tell you, from the pictures you provided, you have some very valuable pieces here. The age and quality are apparent for most of what I've seen in the pics. If there are hundreds of pieces of similar quality, you are looking at multiple thousands of dollars worth. Remember, though that if you liquidate the collection it will likely be through someone who will have to resell will get wholesale prices. The total will still be in the multiple thousands of dollars. You are correct in seeking a legitimate, unbiased appraisal as the likely value of this collection is significant. A good appraiser may also be able to suggest potential buyers (likely dealers) for this treasure trove.
posted by txmon at 7:38 AM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you and Happy New Year! The .pdf from julen led me to a qualified appraiser within 20 miles of where I live. I also got steered that way by these folks. I have made preliminary contact and should find out more in the next couple o' weeks. After being here for 5 years, this is my first AskMe and I knew you guys wouldn't let me down.
posted by DaddyNewt at 3:22 PM on January 1, 2012

« Older Plan our romantic weekend   |   Help me "Wow!" Santa Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.