This gallery-worthy reversible single-strand heishi necklace with mosaic inlay was painstakingly handcrafted by Charlene and Frank Reano of San Felipe and Santo Domingo pueblos.
The Reanos have inlaid five tabs, and also a single bead as their hallmark. This striking and versatile showpiece necklace represents weeks of labor and precision craftsmanship, and many years of jewelry-making experience.
This one-of-a-kind necklace features jet beads and reversible mosaic inlay tabs using coveted Kingman turquoise, along with lapis, spiny oyster shell, and melon shell.
- Necklace handcrafted by Charlene and Frank Reano (Santo Domingo/San Felipe)
- Single strand jet shell
- Lobster claw clasp
- Necklace measures 20.5” long
- Comes with a signed Certificate of Authenticity
Handcrafted works of Native American art require special care. For more information about proper care and cleaning, please read our Care Guide.
Charlene Reano of San Felipe Pueblo is married to Frank Reano of Santo Domingo Pueblo. They are well-known for creating inlaid earrings and bracelets, and necklaces that have the appearance of intricate, colorful tiles – a mosaic of rich colors and patterns.
The type of inlay work created by the Reanos have a revered history dating back to their Ancestral Puebloan (formerly referred to as Anasazi) ancestors. Stunning earrings and pendants have been unearthed from ancient dwellings – extraordinary pieces made by patient hands a thousand years ago.
Charlene says, "My inspiration stems from the jewelry worn during the traditional dances. I take pride in my work, and strive to continue to grow in my designs, and within my own spirit."
Charlene's intricate work has been recognized with ribbons and awards at Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Arts and Craft Show, and the prestigious Santa Fe Indian Market.
In Santo Domingo Pueblo, bead-making has been a central part of life for centuries. These beads are known as “heishi,” which means “shell” in the Santo Domingo language, Keres. Most heishi beads are rolled into smooth flat discs, but heishi can refer to any small beads that have been made by hand.
Heishi may be the oldest form of jewelry in New Mexico, and necklaces with similar bead styles have been found in the Ancestral Pueblo (formerly referred to as Anasazi) sites of Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde.
The process is extremely labor intensive, and it can take up to two weeks to make a single strand of heishi beads. First, the shell or gemstone is sliced into strips, then clipped by hand into small squares. These unfinished beads are drilled and strung on a fine wire. Next, the artist turns the string of beads against a stone wheel to make them round, further shaping and smoothing with sandpaper. Finally, the beads are run against a leather belt to achieve a fine polish.
Today, fewer and fewer artists are creating their beads by hand, making true handcrafted heishi necklaces an extremely valuable piece for art and jewelry collectors.
Shell mosaic inlay jewelry is a signature style of Santo Domingo jewelers. Artists create shell mosaic inlay by attaching tiny gemstone tiles to a shell base, forming colorful and unique patterns. The technique can be traced back to early forms of jewelry unearthed at Ancestral Puebloan (formerly referred to as Anasazi) sites throughout the Southwest, and many artists model their inlay designs after these early artifacts. Angie Reano Owen is credited with reviving the tradition of inlay jewelry in Santo Domingo Pueblo in the 1970s, and today Santo Domingo mosaic inlay is one of the jewelry styles most sought after by collectors of Native American art. Read our Native American Jewelry Collector's Guide.
At Shumakolowa Native Arts, we guarantee that your purchase is an original and authentic work handcrafted by Native American artists as defined by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We ask our artists to complete an extensive certification process, providing a CIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood) card and other documentation of their Native American heritage. Our team of experts carefully inspects every product to guarantee it is handcrafted using traditional, sustainable processes, and natural materials of only the highest quality. We record the place and date of each purchase, and pride ourselves in paying a fair price that allows artists to make a living practicing their craft.
Every work of handcrafted art comes with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by an artist or buyer. At a time when many commercially made products are being sold as handcrafted Native American art, our in-depth purchase process allows us to guarantee the authenticity of every unique piece of fine art we offer. For more than 35 years, we have made it a priority to visit artists in their studio or home to purchase their latest handcrafted pieces and learn about their work. We have developed lasting relationships with artists, as well as dealers and collectors, and we take pride in being a trusted destination for fine Native American art.