What Determines the Value of a Navajo Carving?

Navajo master craftsmanNavajo artists have established themselves

as world-class sculptures.

Navajo fetishes are well known among collectors and enthusiasts of Native American folk art. However, Navajo carvers also excel in many areas, other than ceremonial fetishes. Indeed the Navajo seem to have a special talent for bringing out the inherent beauty of just about any material they chose to work with.

Navajo carvingTo the layperson a stone that has been carved to resemble a spirit or animal is 'no big deal'. However, those that understand the lapidary arts, know that certain skills and techniques must be employed, on any carving, if the artist is to prevent it's fracturing or falling apart before it is finished. And the larger the stone the more care must be taken. If they should cut "against the grain" the piece is apt to fracture. Hours of painstaking work can be lost with one wrong move.

This difficulty, of course, varies with the type and size of the stone - or crystal - the artisan is working. Many stones, such as turquoise, are softer and somewhat easy to work and carve. Others are naturally harder and more brittle. This puts a premium on the skills required to render a quality finished piece. This is why some Navajo carvings in certain natural materials can be quite costly - often ranging into many thousands of dollars.

Those wishing to acquire a Navajo fetish or other Navajo carving will find that there are several factors that determine their value.

Navajo fetishesSize
Perhaps the single feature that determines price, is the size of the carving. Navajo fetishes by tradition are to be carried in a "jish" or medicine sack. Therefore they are small enough that several can held in the palm of your hand. However, many renown Navajo sculptors work with much bigger stones. For these larger pieces, size matters greatly with respect to value.

Turquoise Navajo carvingType of Material
With the elevated interest in Navajo fetishes and stone carvings today, there has been an increase in the types of natural materials being used by Navajo master carvers. Turquoise and coral are just the beginning. We can now find carvings in agate, alabaster, fluorite, howlite, quartz, hematite, marble, onyx, jade, jet, obsidian, jasper, lapis lazuli, and even petrified wood. The scarcity of some materials will naturally make them prized over others.

Navajo carvingThe Quality of that Material
A large piece, carved from a single stone or crystal is probably the most expensive, but not always. As with all carvings, the beauty, uniqueness, clarity, veining and "character" of the beginning material has a lot to do with desirability and final value of the finished piece.

Navajo carvingSkill and Reputation of the Artist

In all artistic endeavors the craftsmanship, unique style and talent of the artisan or carver is evident in the finished piece. Some Navajo carvings, especially the smaller ones like fetishes, are crude and barely resemble their subject. Other sculptures however are very detailed and intricate. They are statements to the abilities, techniques and care of the artist. Such works of art, of course, will trigger much higher prices.

No matter if your interests and budget lean to small symbolic Navajo fetishes or large lavish carvings; master Navajo carvers will undoubtedly have a creation sure to please you.

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