Santo Domingo Pueblo Brown Heishi and Turquoise Nugget Necklace

C4569L-necklace.jpg

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Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell heishi, turquoise
  • Size:
    29 inches long end-to-end
  • Item # C4569L
  • Price: $450

Traditional know system secures this necklace.

This single strand brown heishi necklace is delicate and exquisite because of the choice of selecting small turquoise nuggets.  Each turquoise nugget is a delicate gemstone.  The brown seashell selected for the heishi softens the appearance.  Some of the turquoise gemstones were drilled in their centers and some nearer their edges resulting in a less uniform and more attractive appearance.  

Necklaces composed of shells and turquoise are the favored style of Pueblo dancers participating in traditional plaza dance ceremonies.  In almost every dance, male and female dancers will be seen wearing such a necklace, from single strand ones like this or multiple strand ones.  Seeing dozens of dancers participating in a ceremony, each wearing such a necklace, reinforces the importance of such necklaces in the ceremonial life of the Pueblo Indians.

What is Heishi? usually 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 heishi 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 heishe. Think of "e" before "i" and you have the correct way to spell this word.


Condition: in very good condition

Provenance: this Santo Domingo Pueblo Brown Heishi and Turquoise Nugget Necklace is from the estate of a family from eastern Washington

Recommended Reading: TURQUOISE TREASURES The Splendor of Southwest Indian Art by Spencer Gill

Relative Links: Southwest Indian JewelryKEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblonecklace

Close up view of this turquoise necklace.


Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell heishi, turquoise
  • Size:
    29 inches long end-to-end
  • Item # C4569L
  • Price: $450

C4569L-necklace.jpgC4569L-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.