Four Strand Rare Coral and Turquoise Heishe Necklace with Silver Beads [SOLD]

C4559B-necklace.jpg

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Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: Diné of the Navajo Nation
  • Medium: silver, coral, turquoise
  • Size: 23-½” (end to end);
    12-¾” (clasps to far reaching strand)
  • Item # C4559B
  • SOLD

Due to its strong saturation of color, red coral is highly prized by the tribes of the Southwest.  Prior to the arrival of the Europeans to the Americas, native people used argillite to accent their jewelry with red— which was very dull compared to that of Blood Coral.  Because of the high cost of red coral, it has also become associated with wealth.

It is easy to feel the value of this deeply colored set of four red coral and turquoise strings.  Arranged neatly in cascading strands that increase in length incrementally, this necklace flows in a natural way. The Hieshi is petite but brilliant in color, making the overall piece very well balanced.  Strands of Blood Coral vary in a deep palette of reds, and are broken up with sets of turquoise beads arranged in twos, threes, and fours.  Silver beads provide further elegance as the cap ends of each strand and include two tubular and two round, bell-shaped beads at each end.   

Although this necklace is unsigned, due to its red coral, turquoise and silver elements we believe this necklace to be Navajo made.  It is clear, however, that the artist crafted it with care and vision—for the end result is something outstanding and sophisticated that any individual could be honored to wear on any occasion. 

What is Hieshi? made from coral, turquoise or seashell. The shells or coral are first cut into small square sections, drilled in the center, strung on wire or string, then sanded by hand, in an up and down stroke, until each one is round. That sounds easy but is not. It is important to exert the same pressure on every stroke to achieve hieshe of the same diameter when finished. The shell is punched out in a square shape, hole drilled through center, strung, and then sanded to the diameter it needs to be.  According to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the beaded tradition is most closely associated with Santo Domingo Pueblo, known for creating beautiful shell and gemstone beads by hand. These beads are called "heishi," which means "shell" in the Santo Domingo language Keres. Necklaces with similar bead styles have been found in the ancient Anasazi sites Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde, and heishi may be the oldest form of jewelry in New Mexico. Traditionally, heishi beads are smooth flat discs, but today the term is used to refer to any small beads that are strung together.  Note:  Sometimes the word is incorrectly seen as Hieshe.  Think of “e” before “i” and you have the correct way to spell this word.


Condition: This necklace is in excellent condition

Provenance: this Four Strand Rare Coral and Turquoise Heshe Necklace with Silver Beads is from a private collection

Recommended Reading: FINE INDIAN JEWELRY OF THE SOUTHWEST: The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection by Shelby Tisdale, Ph.D.

Relative Links: Southwest Indian JewelryNavajonecklace

Close up view of the necklace beads.


Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: Diné of the Navajo Nation
  • Medium: silver, coral, turquoise
  • Size: 23-½” (end to end);
    12-¾” (clasps to far reaching strand)
  • Item # C4559B
  • SOLD

C4559B-necklace.jpgC4559B-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.