Santo Domingo Pueblo Heishi and Turquoise Nugget Necklace

C4569K-necklace.jpg

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Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell heishi, turquoise
  • Size: 28 inches long end-to-end
  • Item # C4569K
  • Price: $650

Traditional knot secures this necklace.

This Santo Domingo Pueblo shell and turquoise necklace is typical of those from the early- to mid-twentieth century artisans from Kewa Pueblo, then known as Santo Domingo Pueblo.  The brown shell heishi was formed from seashells which were cut into small squares, drilled with a hole, strung on string and then sanded by hand to produce round beads of uniform size.  The heishi was then restrung with turquoise gemstones which were drilled and inserted.  The ends were tied together.  Each of the turquoise nuggets was drilled in its center and added to the heishi at about an inch apart from its adjoining one.  The turquoise nuggets are all from the same mine.

This style necklace is centuries old.  From the earliest of times, turquoise has been favored by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest. They mined it at Cerrillos, about 30 miles south of Santa Fe, for centuries. Turquoise has religious, ceremonial, superstitious and economic values to the Pueblo Indians.

What is Heishi? 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 Heishi and Turquoise Nugget Necklace is from the estate of a family from eastern Washington

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

Relative Links: Southwest Indian JewelryKEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblonecklace

Close up view of the shell and turquoise.
Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell heishi, turquoise
  • Size: 28 inches long end-to-end
  • Item # C4569K
  • Price: $650

C4569K-necklace.jpgC4569K-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.