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Vintage Shop         Do We Buy Jewelry?


Old Pawn...the real, real Indian jewelry

Excerpted from an article in Arizona Highways Magazine, March 1975

On the Navajo Indian reservation anything 100 years old is very old, ancient, or antique. People and property of 50 years are old. Off the Navajo Indian reservation old pawn represents the real Indian jewelry.

Contrary to opinions of pseudo-experts, old pawn was not jewelry made only for pawn. Old pawn is not merely a piece of jewelry that an Indian has pawned because he has needed money. The search for old pawn is motivated by more than a romantic urge.

For us, the value and emotional attraction for old pawn Indian jewelry is that it has been owned, appreciated, worn, and used by real living Indians. We see old pawn jewelry as an intimate relic of a people and a culture which is slowly and inevitably disappearing into history. The more we learn of Indian silversmiths and old pawn jewelry the more we are convinced that the old silversmiths produced a higher standard of their art for Indians than they did for traders and non-Indians.

Authentic Vintage NOS Native American sterling silver inlay  belt buckle by Zuni Ernie OhmsatteWhen a Navajo man or woman wanted a piece of jewelry he went to a silversmith, usually a relative. The piece was made to order and scaled to the wearer's size and build. In most cases the buyer furnished the makings - silver, turquoise, old jewelry or whatever was needed.

Indian jewelry served as decoration, a display of wealth, and as collateral against loans at the trading post. The pawn rack was an important and respectable part of the economic and social life of the Navajo. Jewelry moved in and out of pawn at regular seasonal intervals synchronized to the spring and fall lamb, wool, and harvest activities. Much of the jewelry was withdrawn from pawn during the summer dances and ceremonials, and returned to the vaults again during the winter months.

The discerning Navajo knew beauty and excellence in craftsmanship and would not wear sloppily made, poorly constructed silver. The quality and color of turquoise may not have been the best, but the silversmithing was something else. The Navajos kept their silver bright, shining, and untarnished by brushing it in yucca suds and water.

The amount of cash or credit advanced depended on the amounts of silver and turquoise, and the owner's credit rating with the post. It was seldom that a Navajo pawned all his silver with one trader. Old established traders set their own time limits with the individual regardless of the general law which only required traders to hold pawn for thirty days.

One licensed pawn rack at Gallup, New Mexico holds jewelry in the vault for 90 days. If the loan contract is not satisfied or renewed, it goes on display in a warning case for 30 days before it is classified as dead pawn.

In summary the old pawn racks were rich and splendid sources of the jewelry created by the finest Navajo silversmiths of their day, for their own people, and uncontaminated by taste and influence of alien people and cultures. If a piece of old Navajo pawn could talk, what a story it would tell of dances, ceremonials, and happy times along the beautiful way of Indian life.

The Horsekeeping Vintage Shop

For your convenience, we have divided our Vintage Shop into two sections:

Vintage Native American Shop      and      Bargain Barn

Our Vintage Shop contains contemporary and vintage items, sometimes with materials, date and origin unknown.

The items in the Vintage Shop are either hallmarked / signed authentic Native American Indian Made pieces OR unsigned / unmarked pieces. Prior to 1950 hallmarks were not commonly used. The unsigned pieces in our "Vintage Shop" are most likely Indian made but by law cannot be listed as such since their exact origin cannot be proven. We will designate authenticity status on each individual item page.

Most of the pieces have been previously owned but some are New Old Stock (NOS) that were never used. Many pieces have signs of wear and use such as darkened patina on silver and gold. Some may have damage. We will describe the condition of each item on its individual page.

Our Bargain Barn is a mixed bag of new and used items. We'll give you as much information as we can, but often the materials, date and origin are unknown.

Paula, Manager

Read more about Native American Jewelry

For new items visit our New Jewelry Store.

Bargain Barn
Turquoise peacock pin
spiny oyster shell necklace
Vintage Native American Shop
Vintage Turquoise Bracelet

Our Rescue Mission
of
Native American Indian Jewerly and Artifacts

Native American Jewelry blog tips and informationWe are in the vintage Native American jewelry rescue business and are passionate about finding new homes for used and vintage jewelry and artifacts. That's why we purchase Native American pieces from estates, inheritances, collection downsizing and New Old Stock (NOS) inventory from closed stores.

Often people contact us after taking a box of Native American jewelry to their local pawn shop and find that a pawn shop is mainly interested in melt value of the metals and not in preserving the beautiful historic pieces. To hear that people have considered selling these treasures for melt value makes us truly sad.

Melt value is usually far below what we would offer for the jewelry. Yet we can't pay retail price for items because of the time and cost involved in finding new homes for them. We have to research, often repair and restore the jewelry, photograph and list each item on our website, and sometimes hold pieces in inventory for years until the right buyer comes along.

We hope you'll find something special in our vintage shop that will complete yet another circle of our jewelry re-homing mission.

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