Travel Tips

Real or Fake? How to Buy Authentic Jewelry in Santa Fe

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 Santa Fe jewelry
This is the place to find the real stuff in Santa Fe. Just be prepared to squat to get a closer look.

What a bummer. As many as 90% of pieces that are said to be made by Native American craftsmen are fake, says the New Mexico attorney general’s consumer protection division, as reported today in the Wall Street Journal. So how do you know if you are getting authentic jewelry in Santa Fe?

This story caught my eye as I just returned from Santa Fe last week, and spent a large portion of my free time looking at the gorgeous jewelry there. Well, primarily I was involved in a massive temptation fest, trying to come up with some plausible justification for  buying the most gorgeous turquoise and coral necklace. But despite harnassing all my creative abilities, I was unable to manufacture a reasonable excuse to spend $225 on myself. It’s the same thing about getting a keratin treatment for my hair, although I’d be much happier leaving the frizz-fighting efforts behind for a while. But I digress.

Unlike many other endeavors where it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the fake from the real (see my upcoming post on my new purse consignment business), it’s easy to buy the real stuff in Santa Fe.

Just go to the Santa Fe Plaza and in front of the Palace of the Governors you will see a whole row of American Indian artists selling their authentic pieces of jewelry. I loved strolling along the rows, and bending down to examine the pieces on the rolled-out blankets. Although I didn’t spring for the necklace (sigh) I did find a few others that were just $18 and $20. In addition to the usual jewelry pieces, you can often find items such as silver guitar picks, which a woman next to me was buying for members of her band.

It’s all part of the Native American Vendors Program. Every day artists from local pueblos come and wait to get a space, which are given out by lottery. So the artists may change from day-to-day, which means if you see a piece you want – buy it. It may not be there the next day. The vendors are the number one tourist attraction in Santa Fe and and  the money the artists make go to support life in the pueblo.

If only it was always so easy to tell the real from the fake. Like those handbags I’m selling on consignment.

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