Beware of Fake Fetish Necklaces!

Many fetish necklaces for sale around the country are not Zuni made, although they may be represented as such. The keys to determining authenticity are:

  • Knowledge of the carver
  • Materials
  • Price

There are perhaps twenty carvers making fetish necklaces in Zuni today. These carvers can be referenced in books on Zuni carvers. With so few genuine Zuni fetish necklace makers the availability and selection is limited. Beware of “stacked necklaces,” i.e. fetish necklaces with no beads or “heishe” (pronounced he-she) between the fetishes. The best and finest heishe is made in Santo Domingo Pueblo.

Fake necklaces are made in Gallup, New Mexico or imported from Asia and contain pen shell and not heishe, and are definitely not Zuni. Unscrupulous manufacturers use pen shell because it is extremely cheap and bears a resemblance to olive shell heishe. Price is the key; pen shell is less than a dollar a strand, while heishe costs far more.

Beware of necklaces that have more than three strands of fetishes. These days it is extremely rare to see a Zuni fetish carver making necklaces of more than three strands. If you see a necklace with the bottom center piece in the form of a wingspread eagle or if the necklace incorporates carvings of armadillos or katsina-like figures, it could be a fake.

Perhaps the easiest way to tell if it's a phony is if it costs less than $200.00 per strand, is on sale or is offered at a discount. This happens very rarely with collectable authentic Zuni fetish necklaces.

Biggest Fake Native American Art Conspiracy Revealed, credit: Maraya Cornell, NG Creative

"On the remote Zuni reservation in northwestern New Mexico, an estimated 80 percent of working adults make jewelry, pottery, stone animal carvings, or other arts and crafts for sale to tourists and dealers." -  Maraya Cornell, NG Creative