Native Pearls


I have a “native pearl” style necklace. It is 30” in length with 16 mm sterling balls strung on it. I cannot find any identifying hallmarks as to who made it. Any info anyone might have on something like this, as well as value would be appreciated. It’s weighs 177.6 grams.


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Hi Tim, can you add pics that show closeup (macro or zoom) of the beads, and of the clasp area? These look like 3 of the same shot.

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Posted additional pics for ya chi farmer!! Let me know if these work. If not, I’ll take more.

IMHO these do not look native made or strung to me. Native beads are not perfectly shperical like this - usually have a seam at the equator and are somewhat flying saucer- or lentil-shaped. These may be mexican, but restrung as that is not a mexican clasp that i can tell. they’re beautiful, regardless. Just dont think they’re native made.

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I wasn’t sold on the native made either, hence the ? mark. I think your analysis is spot on. I am not near familiar enough with either to be able to identify. Thanks for help. As a Mexican product, what do you think value is? They weigh just under 7 ounces total.

Another ? I have is I noticed during research that native pearls are valued much higher than Mexican products for similar type items. What is it that makes the native so much more desirable? Is is it attributable to the maker, or simply the history?

@Evildoer100 Not so much a matter of nationality but rather the typical factors that establish quality in bead necklaces. In NA jewelry there’s the chance to buy handmade vs. commercially mass produced, from a known maker vs. anonymous (in modern NA work, a criterion not relevant to antique NA jewelry), visible quality in fabrication (how the seams were executed, the beauty of the handstamping)–vs supply shop beads where the skill is simply in stringing.

Makes sense. Even with the handmade taxco stuff, their method of stamping using a letter from the beginning of the makers last name makes it almost impossible to attribute the work to the maker. From reading, I know many of the taxco artists shared their “eagle stamps” with other makers.

Also, it’s far more of a thing in NA jewelry than in Mexican jewelry. Mexican silversmithing is very creative and wide-ranging, but bead necklaces aren’t important within that, whereas silver beads are truly part of Navajo art. And of course, within the NA retail world as well, the quality and $$$ also vary enormously.

I am going to break ranks here. These Sterling Ball Beads do not look like Mexican-made to me. I would wages closer to Europe than North America. Either Italian or French, possibly Spanish. These are machined or mass-produced for sure. The telltale is the clasp. If they were Mexican there would be a slip lock clasp of some sort 90% of the time. While it is true that a lot of the Taxco beads were machined, there are many instances where that machining was done on smaller scale in Tallers(silver shops). I have seen such a machine in Taxco Mexico that produces these kinds of beads. It is a one-man machine with a lever. Soldering was then done by hand in the form and the beads were put into a tumbler to polish out the seam. Pretty quickly toom about 40 seconds per bead.
Navajo Pearls or Bench beads are hand made and therein lies the value. Just note that a lot of the beads you see on Squash blossoms today are not these! Most of these are mass-produced as well. You can find them in many of the southwestern supply shops along with pre-made sandcast rings and bracelets.
I would value these around $200 if you wanted to sell them quick and maybe $300 if you were patient.

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"Most of these are mass-produced as well. You can find them in many of the southwestern supply shops "

Yes, like these available from Thunderbird Supply. The 16mm beads are around $6 each, with around 50 beads on that necklace, Cristibo is spot on at $300.

Thanks for everyone’s input. I appreciate all the corporate knowledge from all of you and have learned a ton. I’ve got a bunch of known Taxco items I’m trying to learn about prior to selling/trading/whatever, as well as many items I’m unsure of or have no clue as to whether they are Navajo or not. It seems many of you have knowledge in multiple areas, so I do appreciate your help and apologize if I’m asking a lot of questions, especially about non native items. If amyone here is interested in the beads, I will sell for 150’ish for this group or make offer.