Kewa Dual Strand Heishi and Turquoise Necklace

C4643-95-necklace.jpg

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Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell heishi, turquoise, cording
  • Size: 25” circular loop
  • Item # C4643.95
  • Price: $1200

This necklace was strung on cotton or woven material and wrapped at its ends in cording material in a “pueblo wrap” style.  A pueblo wrap is more comfortable for wearing than one with metal hooks.

This heishi and turquoise necklace is the marriage of two worlds. Necklaces in this style have been used by the Pueblo people for centuries and would be worn by both men and women in Plaza dances. This necklace was strung on cotton or woven material and wrapped at its ends in cording material in a "pueblo wrap" style (see image above). A pueblo wrap is more comfortable for wearing than one with metal hooks.

Square pieces of cream color shell (or heishe) were drilled in the center, strung, and then delicately sanded to become cylindrical and in the diameter the artist wanted them to be. They were then removed and restrung into the current pattern. Cream color heishe in groups alternate with turquoise formed in nugget fashion, some drilled in their centers and some drilled off-center. The nugget turquoise pieces increase in size as they move away from the top and culminate in large exquisite pieces at the bottom of the necklace.

What is Heishe? It is 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, originally, sanded by hand, in an up and down stroke, until each one is rounded. That sounds easy but it is not. It is important to exert the same pressure on every stroke to achieve heishe of the same diameter when finished. Artists today use a machine for sanding which greatly increases the output of their work.

According to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the beaded tradition is most closely associated with Santo Domingo Pueblo, known for creating by hand beautiful beads of shell and gemstone. These beads are called "heishe," which actually means "shell". 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.


Condition: very good condition

Provenance: this Kewa Dual Strand Heishi and Turquoise Necklace is from the collection of a client

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

TAGS: Southwest Indian JewelryKEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblonecklace

Close up view of a section of this necklace.

Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell heishi, turquoise, cording
  • Size: 25” circular loop
  • Item # C4643.95
  • Price: $1200

C4643-95-necklace.jpgC4643-95-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.