Handcrafted by Santo Domingo artists John and Mary Aguilar, this one-of-a-kind heishi necklace is a dramatic yet elegant statement piece for any jewelry collector.
The hand-cut, square-shaped beads of Lion's Paw shell are accented by smooth disc shaped beads of the same exotic material with unique mottled and striped hues of deep purple to lavender.
- Necklace handcrafted by John and Mary Aguilar (Santo Domingo Pueblo)
- Purple Lion's Paw shell
- Hook and eye closure
- Necklace measures 28-1/4” long x 2-1/4” wide
- 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.
John and Mary are a couple from Santo Domingo Pueblo, known for their mosaic inlay jewelry. At age 9, John was taught the jewelry-making process by his mother, Terecita, soon after the passing of his father, so that he could help his mother with the family business. He was also influenced by his aunt and uncle, Mary and Albert Coriz, who were also well-known heishi makers.
Mary also comes from a well-known family of artists. She was taught by her mother, Mary Lovato, and grandfather, Leo Coriz. Her brothers, Anthony Lovato and Isaac Coriz, are also talented jewelers, as well as a sister, Mary Elizabeth, who has since passed. This dynamic duo utilizes quality materials to create timeless works of art in the form of jewelry.
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.
Jewelry has been made and worn in the Southwest since prehistoric times. For thousands of years Native Southwestern people made mosaic inlay and beads of turquoise, shell, bone, or stone. Metal arrived with the Spanish. Native Americans acquired metal ornaments through trade, but it was not until the middle of the 19th century that Navajo and Zuni artisans learned the craft from Mexican blacksmiths and silversmiths. Their early silver jewelry creations were plain, with simple engraved, stamped, or punched designs. Turquoise was first used in silver around 1880.
By the turn of the 20th century, silversmithing was widespread across the Southwest, and Native artists were making more sophisticated pieces like concho belts, and squash blossom and naja necklaces. The Navajo soon became known for their use of silver, emphasizing silver-heavy designs with only a few gemstones, while the Zuni focused on stone work, featuring finely cut clusters of gems in complex patterns. The Hopi and Pueblo tribes also developed distinctive jewelry styles in the early 1900s. Today, silver jewelry is an iconic image of the Southwest. Today, Native American artists draw upon both traditional and contemporary influences, and their shell, gemstone, and silver jewelry is prized and collected by people around the world.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, and to provide 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.