In the auction world and secondary market, we try to follow trends closely. Keeping current with what’s hot and what’s not is becoming a science. These trends seemed to have a longer shelf life you could count on, but with each passing year, as attention spans get shorter, we have to stay on top of things. It’s really so we can manage our expectations and potential resale of the things we bring to market.
A trend I have noticed of late is the return of value in regards to Native American jewelry. And I mean the “good stuff.” Squash blossom necklaces, silversmith artisan cuff bracelets, mid-century inspired Zuni and Navajo rings, and the list goes on. You need to know your makers and their hallmarks, which is where an expert comes in, although with a little digging online, a savvy “Googler” can find references to these hallmarks and do a little sleuthing on their own. The artist’s name, as in just about all things, is paramount to value.
A simple, unassuming silver bracelet valued at about $20 by your local pawn shop can be worth several thousand dollars if it’s by Charles Loloma. A Hopi silver and turquoise tufa-cast bracelet by Charles Loloma just sold at Cowan's for $17,000. The silver value was about $50. Another in Dallas, this past December, brought $14,500. This is a great trend to see here in the desert southwest. I know there are a lot of fine works hidden here in the Valley, but mind you, these are everywhere. Tourists, in the Rt 66 years, loved bringing these goodies home from vacation. For some reason I just imagined Clark Griswold, but I digress.
The past few auctions I have followed, really made me take a look back at the trend and study the auction analytics. I did this a few years ago as well. I believe in 2016 & I still see the prices on the increase for these handcrafted works of art. Post-recession, the prices have steadily been on the rise. This is contrary to the price of silver, which spiked in 2011, almost reaching $50 and has since come down to earth, hovering around $17. For the last few years, it’s been more about the workmanship and less about the silver content. Imagine that! Art over substance.
It’s been a silent trend. I don’t hear too many people talking about it. The old-timer, serious collectors still remember the glory days of the 1980s when the prices were crazy, but the market is up and solid. It’s rare to see a market when it’s good to sell and may also be a sound investment at the same time. I think it may be the mid-century design of many of these pieces, also in vogue in furniture and current tastes. Or, it’s the simple design and hand-craftsmanship of many of the pieces. Whatever it is, I just thought you might find it a bit interesting; or, you might find me to be an auction nerd.
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