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How to Buy Authentic Indian Jewelry, Art, and Handicrafts

Updated on May 26, 2013

Hopi Pin

This pen and earrings were purchased on Second Mesa, Hopi, Arizona, USA.
This pen and earrings were purchased on Second Mesa, Hopi, Arizona, USA. | Source

Authenticated Native American Jewelry

Various pieces collected over several years.
Various pieces collected over several years. | Source

Real or Fake?

How do you know if your Indian jewelry and art is real? It is simpler than you think to authenticate Indian art, crafts, and jewelry.

The Native American art forms represent the heart and soul of the people and tribes.

Yet, there were a multitude of sources for such work. Many of these works were labeled ‘made in China,’ and ‘hecho in Mexico.’ There are even retailers using terms such as Navajo in a generic way; these items have nothing to do with the authentic Indian experience.

It is also best to support the community of Native American artists in the USA. Here are a couple of excellent sources for authenticated merchandise. The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 is also an excellent way to protect yourself.

Here is a primer based on purchasing items while in the Southwest USA or ANYWHERE in the USA!

Exterior View of Heard Museum


Heard Museum

The Heard Museum is world famous for their collections of Native American artwork. The Heard Museum is in Central Phoenix and there is also a Heard Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Heard Museum in Phoenix Arizona was founded in 1929 by Dwight B. And Maie Bartlett Heard. Today the museum has a wide-ranging collection from the Native American population. Senator Barry Goldwater, an early pioneer in the collection of Native American art, as well as an avid photographer of the South West USA, donated 437 statuettes to the Heard Museum.

There are many festivals held yearly at the Heard Museum where the art, dance, and food of the Native Americans are celebrated.

The Heard Museum is a full 130,000 square feet of display, interactive areas, and a theater. Spending an afternoon at the Heard Museum is a fine way to begin your Native American learning journey.

Their gift shop is replete with fine examples of rugs, pots, statutes, and jewelry that are all authenticated.

Still, not everyone can get to the Heard Museum.

Heard Museum

A markerHeard Museum, Phoenix, AZ -
Heard Museum, 2301 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004, USA
get directions

Heard Museum is just north of downtown Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Eat and Shop at Earl's Restaurant

Authentic Vendors are allowed to sell table to table.  You never know what treasure you will find!
Authentic Vendors are allowed to sell table to table. You never know what treasure you will find! | Source

Gallup New Mexico

Gallup, New Mexico is a major center in the Navajo Nation. The area is replete with galleries and all things Native American.

This is where many people go to experience the Indian culture and purchase all manner of authentic Indian art, jewelry, and handicrafts.

There is even a restaurant, Earl’s, where the vendors sell there wares table to table. It is a delightful experience!

Still, not everyone can get to Earl’s restaurant for the fine New Mexico food and vendors!

Gallup New Mexico Navajo Nation

A markerGallup New Mexico -
Gallup, NM, USA
get directions

Home of many authenticated galleries and Earl's Restaurant.

Indian Arts and Crafts Act

The U.S. Department of the Interior enacted the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. The act as amended is a truth-in-marketing law that prohibits misrepresentation in the marketing of Indian art and craft work within the United States.

You are not assured that all items are authentic even if you are purchasing at a Pow Wow or other festival type of event. Protect yourself from fraudulent items.

Under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act the artwork, jewelry, or craft is so defined as to be made by an Indian of a federally or state recognized tribe. The products must be marketed truthfully regarding the heritage and affiliation of the artisan.

Make sure the event that you are purchasing your item at requires authentic items from their vendors. The vendor should also be willing to provide written authentication that the item you are purchasing complies with the Indian Arts and Crafts. Demand a refund if you purchase a falsely represented item!

There are civil and criminal penalties for misrepresenting Indian arts and crafts. The fine for selling an illegally misrepresented item under $1,000 is a fine of up to $25,000!

For more information or a free copy of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 visit the web site: You may also call toll free to 1-888-ART-FAKE.

Navajo Jewelry


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    • oceansnsunsets profile image

      Paula 3 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      I love to see Native American Jewelry when I travel. Some of it is very expensive, but others are more affordable. I love the general stones and colors they use. A lot of times you can find the roadside vendors, who have made the jewelry themselves, or are making it right then. I hope it is an art form that never goes away. Sometimes in the visitors center in a given area, they will share information about where to find authentic jewelry, etc. That can be very helpful as well as knowing what is real turquoise and what is another stone that is just dyed, etc. Thank you for sharing.

    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 4 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Thanks. I love the jewelry and art. Your opinion means a lot to me!

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 4 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      I grew up in just south of the Isleta Pueblo near Albuquerque, New Mexico and have several pieces of Navajo Indian Jewelry. This hub is very informative and is well done! Voted up and interesting!