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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 13, 1974)
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Indian jewelry gaining popularity
Four locations in Lincoln
1 00 N. 48th 48 & Van Dorn
So. & 12th -71st&0
r r en BE
By Rebecca Brite
American Indian jewelry, long con
sidered souvenir material, has come into
vogue in the last two years, according to
retailers of turquoise and silver jewelry
in the Lincoln area. ;
Owners and employes of five Lincoln
stores and one Omaha store disagreed
somewhat on the reasons for the trend,
andaj! sadtlier.rnarrket in turquoise can
be confusing at times. ' ," "
Abe Lutfiyya, owner of two Lincoln
import shops, said he thinks the recent
popularity of Southwest American Indi
an turquoise and silver jewelry may only
be a fad, but he added he believes many
people may be buying the jewelry for Its
Bob Campbell, a merchandise man
ager for Miller and Paine's downtown
Lincoln department store, agreed that
the jewelry could be considered a good
Rise In prices
He said prices for silver and turquoise
have risen steadily In the last few years,
and show no sign of decreasing. The
price rise nationwide is higher than the
-ate of inflation, he said.
, He added, however, that Miller and
Paine probably never will promote the
sale of the jewelry as an Inflation hedge,
as he believes the handcrafted articles
are bought more for enjoyment and for
The operations manager of a Lincoln
jeweiry store echoed Campbell's view.
Tom Wright of Sartor Hamann
Jewelry said he thinks most buyers of
Indian jewelry are more concerned with
the appearance of the articles than with
their investment value.
"You can't really consider jewelry an
investment," he said. "Gold or silver
bullion is an investment, but not
jewelry. People buy it to wear, not to
Don Ruch, manager of Omaha's
American Indian Store, attributed the
jewelry's popularity to increased nation
al awareness of American Indian
Ruch, whose store also sells the
jewelry wholesale, said most of the
authentic Indian silverwork sold In the
Midwest is made by the Navaho, Zuni,
Hopi and Santa Domingo tribes of .the
The American Indian Store's buyers
deal directly with the native American
artisans, Ruch said, and often are
present while the jewelry Is being made.
This may be the only way to Insure the
authenticity of the pieces, he said, as
the market currently Is "flooded with
"Some stores that buy through a
middleman are getting 'American Indi
an' jewlry that's made by hippies in
Colorado," he said.
Not the real thing
"But worse than that is the junk some
dealers are passing off as stones.
They're melting down phonograph
records and calling it jet (a black
volcanic stone), and using blue plastic
Instead of turquoise.
Ruch said many imitation stones are
so skillfully done that only a reputable
dealer or a geologist could toll the
consumer that he hasn't bought the real
Wright said some dealers may aiso
use a plastic coating on low quality
turquoise to make it look like a finer
Ruch said it can be a full-time
business "just keeping up with the
All the retailers said buyers of
turquoise jewelry represent a cross
section of age groups and social classes,
including American Indians
Wright said Sartor Hamann h closing
out Its line of Indian jewelry howovt r,
despite its popularity. He said more
Deople who buy the jewelry seem mote
Interested in less expensive pieces than
the store carries.
Not enough interest
"We had some of the finest turquoise
and silver work around, and the' price
was good for the quality, but there
wasn't enough interest in it. We had
customers standing in line when we put
the works on sale, though," he said.
He added that, in some cases, lower
quality turquoise may make better
Indian jewelry than do higher grades of
Judging the quality of silver and
turquoise jewelry appears to be a
confusing business In itseif. Very hard,
pure blue stones, with no green tint or
matrices (patterns made by other
minerals when the turquoise is formed),
generally are considered the highest
But Wright said the matrices of some
stones add variety to the appearance of
the jewelry in the eyes of many buyers.
In addition, he said, most American
shoppers are unused to seeing pure,
unmatrixed turquoise, and so think it
Ruch said the matrix of a stone makes
no difference in the quality, that he
grades turquoise by its hardness. The
most durable turquoise stones have a
hardness of five or six, compared to
diamond, the hardest mineral, which
ha3 a hardness of nine.
Continued on pg. 11
friday, december 13, 1974
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