Volume 6, Issue 1
“How do I know if it’s real?” This is the question we get asked over and over again.
Whether referring to turquoise, coral, silver, or Native American art in general, peo-
ple are right to question authenticity and origin – especially when it comes to tur-
Turquoise is a major part of the business of Indian art, and it is becoming more and
more scarce. As the price of the real thing continues to rise, production of fake tur-
quoise has become increasingly advanced, resulting in the creation of some very good
Historically, Native American
artists have used all types of ma-
terials in their work, including
the wonderfully rich thunderbird
necklaces that were made from
old records, combs, radio cas-
ings, and whatever else was
around with the desired colors.
But those artists never claimed
that the materials were coral,
ivory, shell, jet, or turquoise.
People knew what they were
buying, and admired each piece
for its creativity and use of recy-
Clearly today’s market differs greatly from the 1930s and 40s. Savvy consumers want
to know the origins, materials, and methods used to create a piece of artwork. It’s not
always just about the beauty and appearance of the art – true collectors appreciate the
story behind the piece, just as much as they do the craftsmanship. Who made it, what
is it made from, where did it come from, and even maybe why they made it.
There may be a variety of things to attract a buyer to a particular piece, but the one
constant is that they want to know it is authentic. With terms like ‘cultured tur-
quoise’, ‘man-made turquoise’, and ‘Turkoise’, it is definitely a case of “buyer be-
ware”. It is essential to deal with retailers, wholesalers, and artists who are reputable
and tell the truth about their products.
Some of the ‘turquoise’ we see today is the result of very complex processes. Often
beautiful in their own right, but they are not turquoise. Some of these processes date
back to the 1950s and had an almost natural look with a good black web, but are rare-
ly seen today. Many of the more recent processes are not as deceiving or beautiful.
Howlite and other minerals that have cracked surfaces and have been dyed different
colors to mimic turquoise webbing, are fairly easy to spot at flea markets and in cos-
tume jewelry. Often the webbed look creates squares and rectangles with perfect right-
angles – definitely not a look for natural turquoise. A more realistic process uses py-
rite and quartz to create a very dense and durable piece that can be cut into a worth-
Sadly, not all consumers realize, or may not even care, about having the real thing.
For those that do care, seek out dealers and artists who take pride in their materials,
and what they sell – and remember, “buyer beware!”.
by Martin Seidel, Wholesale Member