Santo Domingo Pueblo Turquoise Nugget Heishi Necklace [SOLD]

C4569J-necklace.jpg

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Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell heishi, turquoise
  • Size: 35 inches long end-to-end
  • Item # C4569J
  • SOLD

This Santo Domingo Pueblo necklace with brown heishi and nugget turquoise is typical of those from the early twentieth century by artisans from Kewa 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 nugget turquoise gemstones which were drilled and inserted.  The ends were tied together in pueblo fashion.  The necklace is strung on woven string.  There are 27 turquoise nuggets interspersed and separated about an inch from the adjoining one.  Smaller nuggets start at the top of the necklace and increase in size to the larger ones at the bottom.  Some of the turquoise nuggets were drilled in their center and others drilled off-center.

This style necklace is centuries old.  Archaeologists discovered caches of turquoise and shell necklaces at Chaco Canyon, evidence that the ancestors of today's Pueblo people were using turquoise nuggets and shells as items of adornment over one thousand years ago.  And 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 had religious, ceremonial, superstitious and economic values to the Pueblo Indians.

Bits of turquoise were put in bearing beams of buildings to strengthen them, offerings of turquoise were made at sacred shrines, medicine men used it in diagnostic and healing rituals, and it was often used in burials. It is a unique sign of wealth and is seen in abundance at ceremonial dances at the pueblos of New Mexico.  

Throughout this necklace are polished nuggets of matched turquoise. The turquoise pieces are of different sizes, shapes, and matrix creating an amazing assemblage where it provides a different appeal every time it is viewed.

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

Recommended Reading: Indian Jewelry of the American Southwest by Sarah Peabody and William Turnbaugh

TAGS: Southwest Indian JewelryKEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblonecklace

Traditional knotted securing system.

Close up view of the turquoise and shell.

Jeweler Unknown
  • Category: Necklaces
  • Origin: KEWA, Santo Domingo Pueblo
  • Medium: shell heishi, turquoise
  • Size: 35 inches long end-to-end
  • Item # C4569J
  • SOLD

C4569J-necklace.jpgC4569J-large.jpg Click on image to view larger.