PRATT — Experiencing culture and shopping for fine jewelry don’t always have to involve physical travel and deep expense.
Karin Koehn, owner of Market 54, a vendor craft and gift store at 209 S. Main in Pratt, has friends in Ruidoso, N.M., who along with some of their friends make authentic Native American turquoise jewelry.
On Saturday, Sept. 13, Koehn, along with business partner Karen Hampton, will host an online jewelry party featuring unique turquoise and silver pieces selling at discounted prices, and those interested in viewing and buying won’t even have to leave their living rooms.
"I’ve always had a little bit of this handmade jewelry available here at the store," Koehn said. "But this is the first time we will offer it in a Facebook Live event, and there will be some pieces that are just not going to be found elsewhere. This is not costume jewelry or copycat items. These are made by members of the Navaho and Zuni Indian tribes, most of whom live in Gallup or Albuquerque, N.M."
Koehn, who markets the new branch of turquoise jewelry sales in her store as The Copper Feather, said the way to verify if a piece of turquoise jewelry was authentic and made from locally mined turquoise rock, or if it was fake, was to test it with a cotton ball moistened with fingernail polish remover.
"If it turns blue or green when rubbed with a cotton ball that has been soaked in fingernail polish, then the piece is a fake," Koehn said. "Also, the surface of the authentic turquoise might have a roughness to it, or even cracks. It starts out as a plain fossil-looking rock, with little holes and cracks in it. But once it is cleaned, shaped and polished, it just becomes a beautiful piece of native art."
Koehn said there are laws that are supposed to protect the Native American turquoise artists, but some individuals, mostly Americans, have found ways around those rules and create their own type of fake jewelry for their own profit.
She also said most Native American-made jewelry is stamped with the artist’s name or nickname for further authentication.
"Sadly, many of the Native American arts, like jewelry making, are being lost, because the younger generation in their tribes have no interest in becoming jewelry makers. They are more interested in finding successful jobs in industry, business or health fields," Koehn said. "The artists I work with are getting older and older, and there are fewer young people coming along to keep up the traditions."
Koehn said her Market 54 Live jewelry party would feature pearl-stone bracelets, necklaces, earrings and pendants in a wide variety of turquoise and silver designs.
"We decided to do a live show because sometimes it is hard to determine the size or how the item hangs just from still pictures," Koehn said.
The Market 54 and The Copper Feather jewelry event may be accessed on Koehn’s Facebook page by that same name, with the Facebook Live sale starting at 7 p.m. Sept. 13.