Authentic or fake?

I have heard that Native American pieces are set in a solid sterling back for rings, earrings, and pendants, and that those not set as such are usually mass produced cabs set in imported manufactured settings v hand wrought Native American sterling settings. That being said, would you say the attached pieces are authentic or fake?


I have many friends who are lapidary/jewelry artists. Most are not Native American.
Some have over 30 years experience.
After making a cabochon, some use/make settings that are not Sterling Silver.
They never represent their work as being Native American made.

I do not consider their jewelry fake.

In the mid 1980’s, I purchased a variety of jewelry from Native Americans in AZ and NM. Some used Sterling only. Others used Nickle Silver.
I still have many jewelry findings/settings from the 1980’s that are Nickle Silver. They were purchased from Thunderbird Supply, in NM. Some were made in their shop or wholesaled to them, by Native Americans.

Are you sure all of the pictured pieces are not Sterling or Nickle Silver?

hi. thanks for your reply!. i know the ‘silver’ wore off on one of the pieces and made my finger black!

so is my information incorrect re native american pieces being set in a solid backed sterling or nickel silver setting while imported pieces have an open back? i have stopped bidding on any pieces with an open back such as those shown in my photos.


Many use/make solid backed, Sterling settings.
Not everyone who does this is Native American.

I have some friends, who live in the USA who make open backed settings for jewelry. Some are Native American, some are not.

If you are looking for older, Native American Jewelry, I would go for solid backed settings, marked Sterling, or with documentation about maker and age.
Learn how to determine if a piece is Sterling.
Make sure the seller allows for returns in case a piece is represented as native American/Sterling and you determine it is not.

Many older Native American pieces are not marked Sterling.

i understand that older pieces may not be marked. but what i hear you saying is that if a piece is alleged to be old like pre 2000, it would be in a solid back sterling setting if authentic native american. right? thanks.

@constance It doesn’t matter whether pre 2000 or after: almost all authentic NA jewelry with stone settings reliably has a backing plate. But at the same time it doesn’t prove authenticity, because lots of other tribal/ethnic jewelry is also made with solid backing.

Most (almost all) genuine handmade Native American pieces do not have an open back. However, that doesn’t mean that if a piece does have an open back that it’s automatically machine made, mass produced, or “fake.” It may be, or it may just not be Native American, and not trying to be Native American. I think that the pieces that you posted probably weren’t made to intentionally deceive as Native American. Part of the issue is that some buyers and sellers just assume that many silver jewelry items with semi-precious stones and a certain look are Native American, even if they aren’t. Then once those items hit the secondary market it gets all muddled up, either by sellers who don’t know what they’re selling or buyers who are making an incorrect assumption. Of course there are plenty of fake Native American items that were made and originally marketed with an intent to deceive; I just don’t think these particular items fall into that category. They may still be costume jewelry; the one ring in particular looks like the band is not precious metal.

I have heard of NA artists using open backs on rare occasions, in the context of a translucent non-traditional stone such as amethyst, which really needs to let some light through to be shown off to proper effect.

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Open-backed is kinda unusual for Native American pieces but not unheard of. NA pieces are more often sterling but nickel silver is normal, too…just be sure you’re paying nickel silver prices.

I think your pieces look Asian or Indian by what I can see. The ring would be the one I’d probably say could be NA based on the style, but the open back does give me pause on that, too.

Re calling these “fakes”…they would only be fakes if they were presented as Native American made and were not; there is lots of jewelry that is southwestern in style (intentional or not) that has real stones and precious metals…I wouldn’t call those fake or knockoffs, I’d just call it non-NA-made. It’s still got value and beauty.

Replying to this post in general…I think I might have replied specifically to @chicfarmer’s post by accident, :grinning:


ok thanks. if i’m looking at a piece on ebay, what should i zero in on to have a good chance of the piece being native american as advertised…if no hallmark and if from a seller who for instance is marketing something from an estate sale?

Learn as much as you can about Native styles and techniques. A hallmark is usually a good thing but not everything has one. Go with your gut and you can pull out your phone to do research while shopping.

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@constance…I don’t know that there is a golden arrow to determine authenticity without a solid history accompanying the item. Look at a lot of items both in person and in books and online and build a good eye, and find the reputable sellers. Read their listings and see if they seem knowledgeable about their items. Looking through their store listings can give you a feel for the level of knowledge. That’s about all you can do. I think everyone here has their “mistake” purchases.


I was typing just as @Xtina was laying out exactly what I wanted to say. :slightly_smiling_face: Really, it’s a learning curve. See things in person from reputable sellers, buy from them if funds permit, read, study. If online is your only resource, you stand to bring home some clunkers. And with a knowledge base, you can do very well.


If you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t recommend starting out on ebay or etsy. You’ll do much better buying from reputable dealers who specialize in NA jewelry, even if you pay a little more. And ask them questions! A reputable seller will be happy to educate you. In the meantime read, read, read. Read on here, post questions, and invest in some books. Here’s a great thread with some book recommendations:

And visit museums!


thanks! i’m trying to confirm that by and large, if an item does NOT have a solid backing for ring, pendant, earrings, bracelet…except for the rare stone which is more translucent when light can come through, that that particular item would probably be costume jewelry, not authentic native american. are there any particular clues in the wire solder around the edge of the stone and/or how the stone is set in the setting? like scalloped edge v straight? or on the feathers? i know from looking at my past purchases that i’ve made MANY purchases that were listed as NA but were definitely NOT, i’ve been collecting for many years.

I’ve learned a lot from the good people on this site!! From jewelry makers to armchair collectors like me, I’ve been taught here about details I would have never thought of otherwise.

thank Xtina! yes, i’m referring particularly to items that are listed truly a native american even down to describing tribe such as navajo. connie

Boy howdy do I agree with this.

ME TOOO! and they’re my sole ‘go to’ for jewelry repair/stone replacement! qualify work, reasonable price, usually FAST turnaround keep you posted on progress connie

I cringe at online sellers stating details like tribe when they clearly have no way to know. I mean, how can they if they didn’t get it from the artist or original owner or have some papers on it? It’s things like that which help give you an idea of how knowledgeable or not they could be. Saying that something may be attributable to a tribe in style , that a stone could be, etc., as opposed to it is is telling of the seller, and I pay attention to those words. It’s okay if the seller doesn’t know all the details…just say so and own it! I’d trust the seller more if they can admit what they don’t know and let me determine if it’s worth the gamble.


Yes, an open back was used in the 1980’s by some Navajo artists when I lived in Chinle, AZ.
I knew the artists. They could not afford materials to make sold back rings, pendants, etc.

Yes, some stones lend themselves to an open back setting. This is especially true for somewhat translucent stones or large ones. Having a solid back adds to the weight. Some do not want a heavy piece of jewelry.

Determining if a piece with no documentation of specific artist is very tough. Sometimes, when an artist was starting, they did not use a hallmark. Some have a specific style that can be attributed to them.

Agree that many sellers really know nothing about some pieces. Other than that they look like they might be Native American made.

Going back to my original statement. There are many lapidary/jewelry artists who make high quality, Native American style jewelry. They no not represent their creations as Native made.
I strongly feel to call their creations as fake is wrong.

I make Southwest style jewelry. Was trained by co-workers and friends who are Navajo. I am only 18% Native American, so cannot say my items are Native American. The threshold is 20%, last I heard.

I do not misrepresent any of my items to be Native American made. Just state my training and ethnic heritage.

Determining if something is authentic, Native American made is extremely tough now. Especially with so many misrepresenting what they have.

Best to go with known dealers and artists.