How to Identify Old Pawn Jewelry

Old Pawn jewelry—these turquoise treasures are well known in the southwest part of the U.S. This Native American jewelry has more history than meets the eye. Read on to find out how to identify Old Pawn jewelry.

History of Old Pawn Jewelry

Old Pawn jewelry gets its name from its history. Starting in the early 1900s, pawning jewelry was a common practice between Native Americans and traders. Native Americans pawned jewelry in times of need, meaning most pieces were family heirlooms containing valuable turquoise and silver. Jewelry was a way for Native Americans to carry their wealth with them and have financial support in times of need.

How to Identify Old Pawn Jewelry


Turquoise is the most common stone found in Old Pawn jewelry. Natural turquoise is porous and will change to a greener color, so it isn’t uncommon for authentic pieces to have discolored stones.


Older jewelry pieces will be heavy, as they contain a high amount of silver. This commonality in Navajo jewelry is easy to spot in person. Newer Old Pawn jewelry will be lighter and may not contain as much silver as their older counterparts.

Craftsmanship and Design

Authentic Old Pawn jewelry features complex construction, intricate designs, and large turquoise stones. Pieces from circa 1945 will not have owners’ initials or makers’ marks, which is why it’s important to pay attention to other clues to indicate authenticity.

Wear and Tear

Authentic Old Pawn jewelry will have a natural gray patina, indicating age. It takes decades for the patina to develop and may appear grayer in dry climates like the southwest. Humidity will add a darker, blacker patina. Patina typically isn’t buffed off in order to preserve its history and value.

Keep Your Old Pawn Jewelry Safe

When you’re done identifying your old pawn jewelry, store it with us! We’re SecurCare Self Storage, the storage experts! We have storage units that are safe for all your collectibles and whatever else you may need to store. Our units are clean and secure, too, with on-site managers and 24/7 security cameras. If you have questions, you can chat with a friendly manager online anytime.

Final Thoughts

If you plan on purchasing an Old Pawn jewelry item, we recommend working with a trusted seller. Buyer beware—not only are investment pieces prevalent, but they’re easy to produce. Interested in other collectible items? Learn more about antiques with these blogs:

27 thoughts on “How to Identify Old Pawn Jewelry”

  1. I have a old turquoise cuff bracelet was wondering about it it’s got stamped NHMSS and two letters initials looks like a cursive cn or cn or possibly on or om it’s got patina and the stones have turned a green color with black spider webs threw it I was trying to sell it because needed money it was my grandmother and all anyone wants to give me is silver weight and it’s in good condition why and where could I get my best price for it

  2. I have a lot of vintage Native American jewelry for sale lot has hallmarks and some don’t I live in Georgia and trying to sell it would you interested?

  3. Hi I have inherited old family heirloom ladies native turquoise bracelets and One very large turquoise squash blossom from my Mother. All the jewerly is heavy silver.

  4. About 16 year ago I bought a very large heavy silver turquoise and coral bracelet on one of our travels somewhere in New Mexico.I would like to find out about the value,can you help me

  5. I have a bracelet that I feel is old pawn jewelry .
    It is is beat up
    Missing one small round turquoise piece and one is chipped
    Thunderbirds, teepees , sund , fish in water ard all in the design
    Is it past help ?

  6. I have a cuff bracelet that I feel is old pawn jewelry .
    It is is beat up
    Missing one small round turquoise piece and one is chipped
    Thunderbird, teepee, sund , fish in water ard all in the design
    Is it past help ?

  7. I have a concho belt my dad gave me. He’s had it for over 50 years. How do I tell what it’s worth. I think it’s silver and terquoise

  8. I have a few American Native pieces passed down from my family a few years back. I am looking for some information on them and good possibility of selling them. A belt buckle and Bolo both have markings HMIJ and a hallmark of Ortega I ‘m told with lots of different color inlays and obviously handmade. The other Buckle has a large turquoise stone mounted in either Sterling silver or possible pewter, it looks more mass produced.
    My contact is:

  9. I have a small bracelet, possibly a child’s bracelet, with Native American symbols on it. Is there anything you can tell me about the bracelet? I tried to add a photo with this, but I don’t see any option for doing so

  10. Hi Robert! Try visiting your local antique shop for the most accurate assessment!

  11. I have a native American silver and turquoise cuff with markings that say AB. I have tried to research it and think it was made by a Navajo tribe member. Where is a good place to try and sell something like that. I also have two necklaces.

  12. I have an old pawn piece silver and tourq. Necklace. On the back of the middle drop is an engraved. Arrow. And the written signature ‘Michael’ the sig is jard to read due to polishing. Thoughts?

  13. I’m just starting to buy old pawn jewelry and looking for good sites to learn more and to buy pieces. Do you have any recommendations? Also if you are selling any pieces please let me know as I try to build my jewelry collection.

  14. Hi Samantha – if you are still thinking of selling please email me. Good luck with finding out more about your piece.

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