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It’s tourism season again. In New Mexico, that means it’s also time for an uptick in purchases of Indian jewelry. But of all the money spent here for jewelry purportedly made by a Native American, about half is fake.
Visitors flying in to Albuquerque can walk into inviting shops at the airport and not find a single piece of jewelry created by a Native American artisan, according to Bruce Bernstein, executive director of the Southwest Association for Indian Art.
They will find instead Native American-looking jewelry made in China, Syria and Jordan. This stuff is out there in abundance, even in the epicenter of jewelry making, Gallup.
Knockoffs plague a lot of industries, but here the impact is more personal – it reaches right into the pockets of our New Mexico artisans.
I sometimes think we do a lackadaisical job of protecting the jewelry industry because it’s so dispersed. We have some major manufacturers and wholesalers, but a lot of jewelry is made by the lone artisan working at home. It’s a shadow industry even though Native American art is a $1 billion industry in the Southwest.
This has been a problem for years, and we’ve tried various fixes without much impact.
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