Kewa Pueblo Seashell Corn Dance Necklace with Gemstones and Beads [SOLD]

C4439H-necklace.jpg

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Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell, turquoise jet, unidentified
  • Size: 26” long; 1-⅞’ x 1-⅞” shell
  • Item # C4439H
  • SOLD

Close up view of the shell.

The mosaic-inlay shell from an unknown Santo Domingo Pueblo (now Kewa Pueblo) artisan is an extraordinary work of art.  Each piece of turquoise is miniscule in scale and attached to the shell in mosaic style.  Encircling the edge of the turquoise are two rows of black and white rectangles of jet and white shell.  The lower wider part of the shell is covered in square cut deep red mosaic overlay formed from what may be plastic or coral.  This is a small shell and, therefore, light in weight and comfortable to wear.

In a published article on Santo Domingo Pueblo jewelry, Sally and J. Roderick Moore identify this style necklace as a “Corn Dance Necklace” made from a spiny oyster shell which has been overlaid with turquoise and inlaid with jet and white shell.  The example they display is dated circa 1900, a good indication of the popularity of such a necklace.

This shell was sent to us from an estate in Maryland.  It had been drilled at the top with two miniature holes from which to suspend it for a necklace.  We asked a Laguna Pueblo native, beadwork artist, Carol Gala, to attach a sinew strip to the shell, on which she added small, rounded beads.  The shell can now be worn as the necklace it was designed to be. 

Seashell may appear to be an unusual item associated with New Mexico native jewelry, but this landlocked state has been the source for 400 years of some of the finest jewelry made from seashells.  What comes to mind mostly is heishe—a bead made from cutting and sanding small sections of seashell, when strung together, make fine necklaces.

Navajo and Pueblo tribal members had a trading route between New Mexico and California, and one between New Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico.  Individuals would walk or run from here to there, and there to here, to trade turquoise and other unique southwest items for seashells from the coasts.  Seashells would be used as body bandoliers, as beads on clothing, as items tied around legs to make sounds when dancing, and for making jewelry, such as this shell overlaid with beautiful mosaic gemstones.


Condition: this Kewa Pueblo Seashell Corn Dance Necklace with Gemstones and Beads is in excellent condition

Provenance: from the estate of a client from Maryland

Reference: “Santo Domingo Pueblo Jewelry” by Sally and J. Roderick Moore, published in The Magazine Antiques, July 2009

Relative Links: Southwest Indian JewelrySanto Domingo Pueblo - KewaNecklacesCarol GalaLaguna Pueblo

Simple Knot secures this necklace.


Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell, turquoise jet, unidentified
  • Size: 26” long; 1-⅞’ x 1-⅞” shell
  • Item # C4439H
  • SOLD

C4439H-necklace.jpgC4439H-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.