Pawn was the term used for goods when Native American Indians, especially Navajos, banked these goods with a trader at his/her trading post and used the value of the jewelry as collateral for necessary purchases. The person leaving the pawn would redeem their pawned items when they were needed to wear for ceremonies or social occasions. Ethical traders would not sell the pawn if it was in active use. If the pawn’s owner passed away or their goods were not claimed, then this jewelry would become “dead pawn” and could then be sold.
The term “old pawn” over time, has become an ambiguous phrase for jewelry collectors who want to buy something older, preferably something made for, and worn by, a Native American Indian. “Old Pawn” became a catch phrase used to sell historic jewelry and, at face value, offers the buyer something that is truly antique. Unfortunately, old jewelry materials and designs available on the market today greatly resembles items that were made in later decades. Many jewelry collectors get confused over how old a piece of Native American Indian jewelry actually is.
Unfortunately, a number of today’s dealers still mark their jewelry as “old pawn” often along with new printed pawn tickets attached to the pieces, with the implication that the jewelry displayed are genuine historic pieces. Buyers need to watch out for this type of misrepresentation. “Old style” does not mean that the piece is historic.
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