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What is Old Pawn / Dead Pawn / Indian Pawn Jewelry?

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Old pawn is generally old jewelry and dead pawn can be old or new jewelry.  Old pawn is the most highly collectible American Indian jewelry.  The term "old pawn" or "dead pawn" simply means an item that was pawned for cash but has never been redeemed, a common practice in the Southwest, and often referring to American Indian jewelry.  Occasionally, a very old piece of jewelry, often a family heirloom, will appear as dead pawn, but most pieces found today are of a more recent vintage. 

Referring not only to the age of the items, old pawn, dead pawn, or "pawned" jewelry often exhibits long passed craftsmanship, unusual stones and sometimes significant wear and tear from usage of the years.  One of the major characteristics of really old pawn jewelry, which is easy to tell in person, is that the pieces are heavy in weight.  American Indian artisans used a lot of silver in old pawn items and especially in Navajo work.  Newer pieces of old pawn jewelry may not be as heavy in weight and may not use the high amount of silver, precious metals and stones as had been used for older pieces of old pawn.

Traditionally, Native American Indians used the pawn shop or trading post to pawn jewelry they had made for their own personal wear and adornment or for their family.  Usually nice items such as those made for special occasions or a special family member were pawned for cash in times of necessity.  It is for this reason that collectors get very excited about finding old pawn / dead pawn American Indian jewelry.

Zuni Fetish Store's Old Pawn Collection

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