How to Take Care of Authentic Native American Art and Jewelry
Here at the Indian Pueblo Store, we hope to not only provide one-of-a-kind Native art – we also want to help you best take care of your investment.
If you’ve purchased handcrafted Native American art, you will want to take the best care possible of your newly acquired treasure. This convenient guide shows you how to care for authentic Native American crafts.
Most people purchase jewelry as a type of pueblo art, and because we wear it out in the world, it often needs the most maintenance. To keep your handcrafted jewelry and genuine gemstones looking their best, don’t expose them to chemicals, ammonias, oils, lotions, soaps, or detergents, all of which can cause damage or discoloration. To clean, wipe each piece gently with a soft, damp cloth, and use a dry silver-polishing cloth to lightly buff the metal. A dry, soft toothbrush or child’s toothbrush can be used to get in hard-to-reach areas in petit point or cluster pieces.
In Native jewelry, all gemstones have been hand-set, and may become loose with wear. If you notice a loose gemstone, find a qualified silversmith to have the stone tightened. A note about turquoise, coral, opal, malachite, and pearls – they are porous gems, and should be treated with extra care.
Pottery & Figurines
A pot or storyteller figurine are highly coveted types of Pueblo art, and also require special care to keep them looking their best.
First, never expose your handcrafted and handmade pottery to water or moisture; using water to clean the piece can damage the paint and finish. Most pieces of pottery are meant for display and shouldn’t be used for everyday tasks. However, micaceous pottery that can be used for cooking. To watch a cooking demonstration with micaceous pottery and download seasoning instructions, see our blog here.
Next, you’ll want to avoid exposing your handcrafted pottery to extreme changes in temperature and humidity, and display them in a safe place out of direct sunlight. We also suggest placing a small, soft cloth bag filled with sand or marbles inside your pot so that it will not be easily tipped or moved.
Dust your pottery often, using a soft, smooth cloth, such as a microfiber cloth or a soft paintbrush made of camel or sable hair. Do not use terrycloth or textured fabrics, as these may scratch or damage the pot. You’ll also want to handle pottery with clean hands, as natural oils and other elements can affect the finish.
Lastly, pottery handles and raised details are especially fragile and prone to breaking. You’ll want to avoid turning, spinning, or sliding pottery on its base, as this will scratch the bottom. Placing a mat of soft cloth or felt between the pot and surface will help protect the artist’s hallmark or signature.
Native American carvings like Zuni fetishes are delicate works of art, and should be treated with care. Avoid displaying them in direct sunlight or exposing them to extreme temperatures and shifts in climate and humidity. Don’t wash your carvings with water or chemical cleaners, because many carvings are made from porous materials that will be damaged or discolored by chemicals or water.
To clean, dust frequently with a soft, dry cloth or paintbrush made from camel or sable hair. Always handle carvings with clean hands, because natural oils and other elements can affect the finish. Carvings with gemstone details should be treated with additional care, as these can easily be cracked or chipped. Antique fetishes that appear aged, soiled, or dirty should not be cleaned or altered, as this will decrease their value.
Handmade Native American rugs are extremely valuable works of art that will last for generations if they are displayed and treated as fine art. Never puncture the rug, or use nails or hooks for hanging. To prevent the natural dyes from fading or changing colors, avoid exposing your rug to direct sunlight. We also recommend against Native American rugs being used as floor rugs.
To clean, lightly vacuum your rug with a handheld attachment to remove dust, and flip every 90 days to allow the wool to breathe. These steps will help maintain the rug’s color and keep it free of insects. Do not use cleaning agents or chemicals on your rug, as these can cause the colors to bleed and the wool to shrink, permanently damaging your weaving.
If your rug requires extensive cleaning, take it to a professional who has expertise in cleaning Navajo rugs, Persian rugs, or Oriental rugs. When storing, never fold your rug—roll it up and place in an airtight plastic bag or bin. Place cedar chips behind or beneath the rug to protect against moths.
Natural fiber Native American baskets should not be exposed to moisture, direct sunlight, or fluctuations in temperature or humidity. To clean, dust frequently with a feather duster or camel or sable hair brush. Never vacuum your handmade Native American basket, nor should you apply cleaning agents or chemicals.
If your basket requires any repairs, we recommend taking it to a professional who has expertise in restoring natural fiber baskets. On rare occasions, a basket made from organic materials may attract mold or mildew. We recommend taking these baskets to an expert for immediate attention and restoration. If there is extreme dust or debris within the weave of your basket, it should also be taken to a professional for care and cleaning.
To keep your Native American drums looking and sounding their best, avoid moisture and high temperatures, and periodically dust them with a soft cloth or feather duster. We recommend oiling the leather drum head and laces with Neat’s-foot Oil leather conditioner—but be careful not to saturate the hide, as this will change or ruin the tonality of your drum. In dry climates, you will need to oil more frequently. If your drum is used for decoration, do not display in direct sunlight, or place sharp or heavy objects directly on the drum head. If you need to store your drum, place in a cool, dry location inside a cloth drum bag or plastic bag.
If your handcrafted drum begins to lose its tone due to humidity or moisture exposure, you can restore it by placing the drum in front of a fire, or heating slowly with a hair dryer on high. You may also place the drum in direct sunlight for a short period of time to tighten the drum head. Be careful not to overheat the drum head. If the rawhide becomes too dry, the drum head may split or become permanently damaged.
Handcrafted Native American flutes are delicate and are sensitive to changes in climate and temperature, and may crack, disfigure, or separate along the seams if exposed to extreme heat, cold, or humidity. When not in use, store your flute in a fabric sleeve, or inside a flute case away from direct sunlight and heating/air conditioning vents. Never use chemicals to clean your flute.
To preserve the instrument’s tonality, we recommend oiling with nontoxic mineral oil and linseed oil once a month to maintain tonality, depending upon the climate and how often your flute is played.
Don’t wear lip balms, lip gloss, or lipstick when playing, as this may damage the mouthpiece or stain the flute. Don’t chew gum or eat immediately before playing. If played for an extended period of time, drops of condensation may form in between the “bird” and the “nest” on the flute body. This causes the flute’s timber to become muted, or stop resonating altogether. Remove moisture from under the flute’s “bird” by blowing the water out of the small space between the “bird” and the flute. After playing your flute, remove the “bird,” and wipe the underside and sound holes. Wipe off any remaining moisture with a soft, nonabrasive cloth, shake out any excess moisture, and let the flute air dry completely before storing.
At Indian Pueblo Store, we guarantee that your purchase is an original and authentic work handcrafted by Native American artists as defined by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We ask our artists to complete an extensive certification process, providing a CIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) card and other documentation of their Native American heritage. Our team of experts carefully inspects every product to guarantee it is handcrafted using traditional, sustainable processes, and natural materials of only the highest quality. We record the place and date of each purchase, and pride ourselves in paying a fair price that allows artists to make a living practicing their craft. Every work of handcrafted art comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by an artist or buyer.
At a time when many commercially made products are being sold as handcrafted Native American art, our in-depth purchase process allows us to guarantee the authenticity of every unique piece of fine art we offer. For more than 40 years, we have made it a priority to visit artists in their studio or home to purchase their latest handcrafted pieces and learn about their work. We have developed lasting relationships with artists, as well as dealers and collectors, and we take pride in being a trusted destination for fine Native American art.
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Thanks for an informative guide – this was really helpful!
Love this site! Learned something new about caring for my native pottery. Many thanks.
Love this site! Learned something new about caring for my native pottery. Many thanks.
Thanks for giving me a quick course on caring for my Native items. I am doing all correctly and I didn’t even know that. It helped to reinforce that I was doing it right. I often worried about that. I loved Shumakolowa and can’t wait to get back to your new facility. Damn be Covid! I need to be back with the Native Americans. My life is centered around their culture. I am 100% Polish. Who knew!