How to Buy Native Jewelry Respectfully, Even If You're Not from the Culture

By Gemexi Team | Jewelry
  • Updated On Nov 8, 2023
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How to Buy Native Jewelry Respectfully, Even If You're Not from the Culture

In the world of fashion and style, there are so many choices, and one truly fascinating and culturally significant area is native jewelry. 

Native American jewelry is more about culture than expensive materials. They use things like beads, silver, feathers, stones, leather, and even coins to create these beautiful pieces. However, there is a fine line between appreciating and respecting these cultures and appropriating their heritage. This short note by Gemexi helps you explore the art of shopping for native jewelry without being culturally appropriate, focusing on the principles of education, respect, authenticity, and responsible consumer behavior.

What is Native American jewelry made from?

The first step in shopping for native jewelry is to learn about the culture and history behind these pieces. Native jewelry is more than just pretty accessories; it reflects a culture's history, values, and beliefs.

Different tribes and regions have their unique styles. For example, Navajo jewelry is known for silver and turquoise, while Plains tribes use beads with special meanings. Understanding what each piece represents and its place in the culture is important. This knowledge makes you appreciate the jewelry better and helps you choose respectfully.

Buy Directly From Native Artist

A really respectful way to buy native jewelry is to get it directly from native artists or shops in their communities. These artists put their time and creativity into making authentic pieces, often using traditional methods and materials.

When you buy from them, it's not just a purchase; it's a chance to connect with the people who make these beautiful items. You can learn about how they create them and the traditions and skills that go into each piece.

How can you tell if Native American jewelry is real?

Real native jewelry is unique and handmade, sometimes with tiny flaws, using natural materials. 

Navajo Hallmarks of Native American jewelry
  1. It often has hallmarks like Zuni Hallmarks used animals or other motifs to mark their Jewelry.
  2. Hopi Hallmarks :symbols, including kachinas, rain clouds, or migration patterns.
  3. Navajo Hallmarks: Navajo silversmiths commonly use their initials or a full name as a hallmark. Some also incorporate traditional Navajo symbols, like the squash blossom, into their hallmarks.
  4. Haida Hallmarks: Haida jewelry  usedHaida totemic symbols.
  5. Pueblo Hallmarks: Pueblo jewelry  used initials or names of the artist, as well as tribal symbols and motifs.
It's heavier than machine-made jewelry, showing the artist's personal touch. In contrast, fake copies lack this uniqueness, are usually made far from the real culture, and don't support indigenous communities.

Inquire about the significance of Native American Jewelry.

When you ask questions about the jewelry, you not only learn more but also connect with the person who made it.
Native jewelry has particular symbols, some of very important in their spirituality. 
  1. Like Fox, Raven,Cactus, Coyote, Crow, Eagle and Falcon represents Intelligence, wisdom, Victory and protection.
  2. Hummingbird, Lightning, Man in the Maze, Moon and Rain represent Love, Joy, playfulnessRenewal, fertility, and change.
  3. Arrow and bow represents protection and defense. A broken arrow represents peace between tribes.
  4. Bear represents  sacred sign of courage and physical power.
  5. Buffalo representshumility and the sustaining of life.
  6. Butterfly representstransformation, peace, a messenger from the Spirit world.
These symbols are used in religious ceremonies and are considered sacred. It's vital to treat this kind of jewelry with the utmost respect.

If you're thinking about getting or wearing a piece with sacred symbols, do some research to understand what they mean and how they're used. If the jewelry is meant for religious or spiritual purposes, it's not right to wear it just as a fashion statement. Understanding the importance of these symbols and designs shows how crucial it is to respect their cultural and spiritual meaning.

How to Buy Native Jewelry Respectfully

Respect Copyright and Intellectual Property

Some indigenous designs are protected by copyright or intellectual property laws. This legal protection is in place to safeguard the cultural heritage and economic interests of indigenous artists and communities. It is essential to respect these laws and not reproduce or distribute these designs without permission.

Before purchasing native jewelry, inquire about the intellectual property rights associated with the design. If you intend to use the design for any purpose beyond personal wear, seek the appropriate permissions and licenses to ensure you are respecting the rights of the artists and their communities.
If you are unsure whether it's appropriate to wear or buy a particular piece of jewelry, consider reaching out to members of the culture for guidance. Native communities are diverse, and opinions about the use of their cultural elements may vary. By seeking permission or guidance, you demonstrate a genuine desire to learn and respect their culture.

In some cases, you may find that a particular piece of jewelry is reserved for specific members of the community or that certain designs have restrictions on who can wear them. Respect these guidelines and engage in open, respectful dialogue when seeking information.

Buy from authentic Gemstone Jewelry Dealers

You can buy Native Jewelry from both Native Artists and wholesale gemstone jewelry dealers with proof of authenticity. The latter is a convenient option, as it saves time and provides a wide range of affordable choices with just a simple click.

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