Tips for Selling Native American Jewelry

Hi guys, I’ve compiled a list of some of the tips from my experience selling jewelry. If you guys have any additional tips as a seller, I would love to read them in the comments. Enjoy!

  1. DESCRIBING YOUR JEWELRY:
    To us hardcore collectors, some common key words that are well known to us, may not be well known to the new collector, or someone unfamiliar with Native American Jewelry. Terms like “Fred Harvey” may puzzle a new collector so be sure to specify. Instead of describing your jewelry as a “Fred Harvey Ring,” try describing it as:

Native American Fred Harvey Era Ring (circa 1930-1940)

-Attempt to stay away from buzz words like “old pawn.” At the end of the day, unless there is an original pawn ticket attached, there is no way to know if a piece was truly ever pawned.

-Stay away from using adjectives like “beautiful,” or “amazing” to describe your products. Ultimately, it’s the buyer who decides if the jewelry is beautiful or amazing. Now if you are selling online, there is nothing wrong with using words like this in the body of the product description. But in the title description, shy away from using adverbs. It distracts from the true descriptors of the piece. Online, most people will search for “Vintage” ring, or “Turquoise” ring, or “Navajo” ring, for example. Very few people search using adjectives, so it’s not necessary to use them in the title description of your listing. You are are limiting the views of your product by adding unnecessary/excessive adverbs and descriptors.

-Remember when possible, try and associate your jewelry with a specific tribe.

-Remember to state the metal content of your jewelry. It may be obvious to experienced collectors, but to the new collector it can be a reassuring fact.

-Be weary when identifying a turquoise mine. Ultimately, we don’t know where a stone came from unless we mined it ourselves. Most turquoise exhibits specific characteristics that we can attribute to a particular mine, however, the risk here is in accidentally misidentifying a piece of turquoise. We don’t want to let the buyer think we deceived them if we incorrectly identified some turquoise that we sold them, especially if the incorrect identification greatly changes the actual value of a piece. Circumstances such as this can question a customer’s trust in the seller, and damage rapport. About 20 percent of your customers should produce 80 percent of your sales. We don’t want to lose those repeat customers!

  1. PHOTOGRAPHY:
    -Always photograph the front and the back side of your jewelry. I feel that a lot of vendors don’t photograph the back of a piece, because it doesn’t seem “important.” Always include photos of
    the backside of jewelry.

-When possible, always use outdoor lighting. Outdoor lighting will always photograph your jewelry most accurately, whereas fluorescent lighting can make the stones appear different colors than they actually are.

-Shy away from photo filters. I am all too familiar with using filters on my selfies, so I can easily tell when someone uses one when they photograph their jewelry. Using filters to enhance the appearance of the jewelry is a deceptive practice, and can damage customer rapport.

  1. DISPLAYING:
    This section applies to you if you have a storefront, or are selling at a show. I genuinely feel that half of the battle when trying to make a sale, is making your jewelry look nice and presentable.

-Make it easy for your customers to shop. Small, flatter items (small rings, thin cuffs, stud earrings, flat pendants) should always be at the customer’s eye- level or lower, like on the surface of a table top. Displaying small items too high on a shelf makes it difficult for the buyer to see the item. Big chunky cuffs, squash blossoms and statement pieces should be raised up higher than the smaller pieces because they are easily visible, even from that height.

-Rearrange your display often. Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to search for things from left to right. Rearranging your display helps the customer find new items they may not have seen the last time they were in your store, without actually adding any additional inventory. Do you have a piece that hasn’t sold in a long time? Try moving it around!

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Thanks Bree. You got it when you said create listing titles in buyer’s search terms. Tags are the same. I’m tired of seeing the words “Fred Harvey” period… Like many things over used and abused. Of course I don’t buy at dealer’s prices but while I’m out there researching or buying, I do like it when sellers give an era and use words like Old, Vintage, Antique, Spiderweb, Green, Blue, because that’s how we find it. Info on makers and mines are so conflicting. Think I’ll give up trying to pass this kind of info to buyers. Considering taking out all that info from my listings and use what I “think” I know about mines, tribes and maker’s names even if marked for the listing’s tags and instead state piece is signed, unsigned, old, vintage, etc. This way the collectors can find what they’re looking for through tags and the I just gotta have it customers can shop without the hype. Most people are going to buy because they love a piece regardless of what we say about it anyway. Great pictures of all sides sell a piece. Love the storefront info! : ) Enjoy Texas, and Bree, Thank You for your military service x Sara

Nice write-up, Bree! I would also add accurate dimensions of the piece and gram weight, if possible.

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Good information! I also love it when a seller can provide the provenance for an older piece. One lady was selling her late husband’s collection and he had kept track of where he purchased almost every piece.

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Great info Bree! I agree that sellers should only name the mine if they have some kind of provenance or if the turquoise is really distinctive like “smoky bisbee” for example. Nowadays I see “Bisbee” and “Sleeping Beauty” used so much in the title listings that it does get a little tiresome. One other thing I would add is that for older pieces especially, use water but never clean them with silver polish. Some buyers prefer that patina which shows that the piece is old. I think cleaning older pieces decrease their value just like for coin collectors, it’s one of the first things you learn. Plus the polish or detergent might actually damage some of the more fragile organic stones like coral and spiny oyster shell.

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@Flyingmobula The “Polish or don’t polish” is always a tough question to answer! For me it depends on the piece. I usually lightly polish everything I put in the store (except for the really nice, really old pieces). All the modern pieces get nice, bright polish. And I couldn’t agree more about the Bisbee labeling. I will only label it as bisbee if is the classic lavender pit Bisbee, which is easily identifiable.

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Can you value this?

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I’m not familiar with the artist. So the value would be excluding any value that the artist’s name carries. I found a few similar examples that have sold on eBay:

I feel like this style of necklace would top out around $500, maybe $550 max. Peyote birds are nice, but not quite as collectible as thunderbirds I’ve noticed. The chip Inlay means that it isn’t older than the 70’s; the uniform seam around all the beads means those were machined. It also looks like some replacement beads were added behind the big peyote when your necklace was re-strung, which might impact the value a bit. You can tell the necklace was re-strung at some point because of the crimping beads that are used near the clasp, which is not typical of Native American jewelry during this time.

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It would be interesting if you followed these through the end and show the final price on this thread.

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Hi Jason, both of these pieces sold already. Sorry, I should have made that more clear!

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Found the right sized photos for this project. Sent to local print shop where they printed and laminated both sides. Wanted a satin finish for the laminate to cut down on reflections but not available at our shop. Can be a little difficult to photograph because of reflections but the results are worth the time. Catching the eye of and getting customers to your shop is a lot of the battle.

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