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Creating an American Indian Theme

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 16 Jul 2012 | comments*Discuss
American Indian Theme Native American

Collectors old and new with an eye for beauty and history have long been lured by the power of Native American artefacts. American Indian artefacts are among the most sought-after collectibles on the market today. Here are some tips on what to look out for so you know that your Native American artefacts are authentic.


Native American jewellery is traditionally made with materials ranging from sterling silver and turquoise to pipestone and corn strung for necklaces. American jasper, agates and Afghanistan lapis are also in high demand. Examine your jewellery carefully; all metal should be solid, instead of plated or filled. Edges should be smooth and even instead of crudely or sharply cut. Bracelets should be heavy enough to withstand the stress of regular use. Necklaces should be strong enough to support the weight of the materials and should have secure clasp. Ring shanks or settings should support the size of the stone. All stones should be natural, not cake, composite or resin-treated materials. They should set securely in strong bezels.


When you are buying Native American pottery, consider the materials used as well as the design. The various clays used have been dug from special locations for centuries. Paints come from plants and minerals and are traditionally applied with a split yucca brush. Pottery should be made from natural rather than commercial clay, and it should be handmade. Paints also should be natural, and pottery should be fired in a traditional outdoor style or in a kiln. The shape of the pot should be well proportioned and pleasing in relation to the painted or carved design. When you hold the pot, its weight should feel proportional to its size, not overly heavy. The painted design should be well executed and polished surfaces should be smooth and even.

Pottery from various Pueblos has distinctive differences. For example, Taos and Picuris Pueblos' pottery has a surface that glistens because it is made from micaceous clay. Pottery from the Santa Clara and San Ildefonso Pueblos has a polished surface and, depending on the firing technique, will be either deep red or black in colour. Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblos produce pottery with black painted designs on a cream-colored background. Acoma Pueblo pottery is thin-walled with black painted designs on a white background.

Weaving and Textiles

Weavings should be made from homespun or commercial yarns of natural fibres such as cotton and wool. A good quality Navajo rug should lie flat with even edges and have the same thickness throughout. The Navajo Nation covers portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Various weaving areas have developed their own characteristic design elements, with imagination and humour often depicted in pictorial designs. Four Corners area weavers may produce textiles with the Navajo Yei Bei Chei. The Two Grey Hills weavers produce pieces using only black, grey and white natural wool yarns. Ganado area weavers use very bold patterns with heavy red backgrounds and black borders. Weavers in the western part of the Navajo Nation continue to make the famous Storm Pattern design.


The key to identifying quality American Indian baskets is discovering the materials and process used to make them. Native American basketry varies from coarse construction and minimal design to extremely fine weaving with intricate design. Some baskets are utilitarian, while others are made for ceremonial purposes. Popular basketry from the southwest is predominantly represented by baskets made by the Hopi, Navajo, Pima and Tohono'Odham of southern Arizona. These comprise handmade baskets that are delicately woven with all natural materials gathered by the craftsperson; remember that this will generally make them more expensive due to the labour involved.

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