Handcrafted by Lita Atencio of Santo Domingo Pueblo, this heishi bead necklace is a classic and stylish respresentation of an ancient art.
Turquoise beads in hues of green and richly varied matrixes adorn this elegant three-strand heishi necklace. Each gemstone bead has been hand-cut, ground, and polished by the artist.
It is a sophisticated and classic piece taking dozens of hours to complete, and complements modern fashion while carrying on Santo Domingo's distinguished legacy of jewelry-making.
- Heishi Necklace handcrafted by Lita Atencio (Santo Domingo Pueblo)
- Green turquoise
- Three strand
- Hook and eye closure
- Necklace measures 22” long x 1” 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.
Lita Atencio is an accomplished jeweler from Santo Domingo Pueblo, known for finely crafted traditional heishi and stone bead jewelry.
Turquoise beads have been made in the Southwest for thousands of years. The Ancestral Pueblo people (formerly referred to as Anasazi), ancestors of today’s Pueblo tribes, mined turquoise in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Chaco Canyon, a major Ancestral Puebloan center, was at the center of turquoise trade routes stretching from the Pacific Northwest to Central America.
Turquoise was not set in silver until the late 19th century after Navajo and Zuni artisans learned metalsmithing. The blue and green gem quickly became a favorite with Native American silversmiths, and was extremely popular with tourists visiting the Southwest in the early 20th century.
Some Native Americans believe the gem was a gift from the spirits and call it the Sky Stone. Today, turquoise is one of the most iconic images of the Southwest and is still revered among Native American jewelry artists.
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.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.