Jacla, Jackla, Jocla………No matter how you spell it, what is it?

A traditional Pueblo jewelry adornment, a jacla is two loops of heishi that were originally earrings and sometimes fastened to the bottom of a stone necklace as a pendant-like attachment.

Jacla is Navajo for “ear string”. The Navajo spelling is the most commonly used version of the word. Jocla is also common but jackla is a phonetic mis-spelling. Although jaclas are attributed to the Rio Grande Pueblo Indians, they were traded with other tribes so have become associated with the Navajo as well. They are seen in vintage photos being worn by members of all southwest tribes, both men and women.

In the oldest style necklaces, the jacla is a pair of loop earrings tied onto the necklace.

N200-jacla-turq-nugget-2The two loops would be removed from the necklace and used as earrings.   This is how the jacla originated. This necklace is likely from 1910-1920.

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I can picture a pre-European-contact Rio Grande Puebloan taking his or her jewelry off and storing it that way. And sometimes when not wanting to wear earrings, just leaving the jacla on the necklace as a pendant.

The jacla might match the necklace it is attached to or be of contrasting heishi. Most jaclas have tabular pieces in the bottom center that are called “corn”. They are most often made from white or orange (spiny oyster) shell or coral. According to Mark Bahti, author of Collecting Southwestern Native American jewelery, jaclas with spiny oyster shell corn are rarely seen and highly prized by many Indians.

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The tips of the jacla loops are traditionally finished off with coral, a contrasting shell or trade beads, often red.

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In the early 20th century, jaclas started to be incorporated into part of the necklace, so this necklace would have likely been made after 1920, likely in the 50s.

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Contemporary artists use the jacla design in many ways such as this block turquoise jacla necklace with spiny oyster corn.

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And here’s one in very fine heishi from Santo Domingo artist Paul Tenorio

NH893-5-strand-jacla-ortiz-2 NH893-5-strand-jacla-ortiz-3

Loop earrings are basically a miniature version of a jacla – they are made with and without corn.

NE388-heishi-turq-castillo-1NE281-turq-heishi-ortiz-1Paula

More on Navajo and Zuni Fetish Necklaces

There is a term associated with fetish necklaces – stacked.

That refers to fetishes strung one right on the top of one another rather than separated by a length of heishi. If heishi is used, it can be pen shell, olive shell, white clam shell, turquoise, jet or other.

Here are some examples of the various heishi that is used in between fetishes.

Pen shell heishi with turquoise heishi accent
Jet heishi
Pink shell heishi
Turquoise heishi

Here is an example of a “semi-stacked” fetish necklace, that is, one that has just a small amount of heishi in between each fetish.

Semi-stacked fetish necklace

Here are some examples of true stacked fetish necklaces, those that are fetish on fetish.

Stacked Fetish Necklace
Stacked fetish necklace
Close-up of stacked fetish necklace

Every artist has his or her own vision of what a fetish necklace should look like:

  • the size of the fetishes

  • the style of the fetishes

  • the stones and shells used for the fetishes

  • the stones and shells used for the heishi

  • the space between the fetishes

  • the type of closure (more on that in tomorrow’s post).

Navajo Tommy Singer Bamboo Coral and Treasure Necklaces

Hi Paula,

I am interested in some of Tommy Singer’s work which is displayed on your website.

Items NHS828, NH878, NH827, and the multi-strand bamboo coral.

Tommy Singer 3 Strand Gemstone Necklace
Tommy Singer Turquoise Gemstone Necklace
Tommy Singer Purple Spiny Oyster Gemstone Necklace
Tommy Singer 7 Strand Bamboo Coral Gemstone Necklace

I am wondering what percentage of the beads he uses are actually handmade/handformed by him or his family. My wife and I are building a collection, trying to stick to sole-authorship pieces.

Any information you can give me on these pieces, or any others you might have by Tommy and others would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks and best regards,

Charlie

Hi Charlie,

Thanks for your inquiry.

The 12K gold filled barrel beads that are decorated, gold, black silver are made by Tommy Singer. Also the solid sterling silver barrel beads are made by him. They are on most of his necklaces. They are his signature treasure necklace beads.

The purple and orange spiny oyster and turquoise heishi style disc beads are made by him. Also the other gemstone beads that are disc style.

The long narrow bamboo coral – I am not sure but I think not made by him.

The little sterling silver decorative spacers – I think not made by him.

The sterling silver cone ends are not made by him.

So a high percentage of what goes into his necklace is hand made by Tommy Singer or his family.

Doris and James Coriz make all the component of their necklaces, for example

Spirit Necklace made by Doris and James Coriz, Santo Domingo
Olive Shell Fish Necklace by James and Doris Coriz, Santo Domingo
Close up of fish

These artists also make ALL of the heishi right on the “string” so to speak.

10 Strand Heishi Necklace by Janice Tenorio, Santo Domingo
Close up of Tenorio heishi

Enjoy browsing and let me know if I can help further.

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Native American Chiclet (Chicklet) Necklaces

Santo Domingo Chiclet Necklace

In 1899, US gum manufacturers formed a conglomerate, The American Chicle Company.

In 1906 Frank Fleer (does his name ring a bell, bubble gum lovers?) began making a hard-shelled, candy-coated white peppermint gum called Chiclets.

Chicle is the English version of the word tzikiti (“sticky stuff”), the Nahuatl word for the resin that makes chewing gum. Oddly enough though, Chiclets are made from a different gum base!

By 1920, Chiclets were available in bright colors: yellow, green, orange, red, white, and pink. The small shiny rectangles each had a different flavor – mostly fruits; the white was still peppermint.

Chiclets Gum

Native Americans, most specifically Santo Domingo artists, began calling their colorful, multi-stone necklaces “Chiclet Necklaces” and it is easy to see why.

Santo Domingo Chiclet Necklace

Some Santo Domingo artists add small treasures among the chiclets and call the necklaces Treasure Necklaces.

Santo Domingo Treasure Necklace with Fetish Bear

Santo Domingo Treasure Necklace with Pipestone Hummingbird Fetish


Native American Fetish Necklace – Signed by Artist?

Hi Paula,

I was interested in purchasing a fetish necklace made by Corrine Ramirez and wanted to know if this was signed by her, or had any kind of certificate by the artist?  Thank you!

Melissa

Fetish Necklace by Corrine Ramirez, Navajo

Hi Melissa,

I don’t know of any fetish necklace makers that sign their necklaces – they do so by “style” – that is, the pieces are recognizably by a certain artist.

We purchase directly from Corrine. That’s the best certification.

As far as a Certificate of Authenticity (COA), the only legal certificate is one signed by the artist. In other words, if a store owner gives you one that says “This is authentic Native American made by so-and-so” it is not valid. It is worthless.

With that said, only about 1% of the artists that we deal with issue signed certificates for each piece. We indicate on the item page if there is a COA.

Only one Navajo artist gives us certificates with her pieces. And we represent the work of hundreds of artists from many tribes.

However, aside from fetish necklaces, the majority of Native American pieces today are signed with some sort of hallmark.

So I’ve made a short answer long, just to give you more background.

Hope this helps.

Paula

It does Paula. Thank you for getting back with me.  I wasn’t sure if a necklace could actually be signed, but thought I’d check.

I want to be certain before I make such a big purchase.  Thanks again! Melissa

Native American Wearable Art – Stacked Fetish Necklace

Paula,

My daughter-in-law wanted a stacked fetish necklace for Christmas and I felt funny when she asked me for it because, I’m a little embarrassed to say, but I thought it was something obscene. Now I know a little more about it but wonder if you would explain further.

Name Withheld on Request.

Hello there,

No need to be embarrassed – first of all the word fetish could conjure up some uneasy feelings.

From an online dictionary:

Fetish:

1. An object that is believed to have magical or spiritual powers, especially such an object associated with animistic or shamanistic religious practices.
2. An object of unreasonably excessive attention or reverence: made a fetish of punctuality.
3. Something, such as a material object or a nonsexual part of the body, that arouses sexual desire and may become necessary for sexual gratification.
4. An abnormally obsessive preoccupation or attachment; a fixation.
So Native American hand-carved totems or fetishes are definition #1.
The definition that probably made you go “Why in the heck is my daughter-in-law asking for a fetish necklace for Christmas” is #3.
Now add the word stacked in there.

1.         stacked – arranged in a stack
2.         stacked – (of a woman’s body) having a large bosom and pleasing curves

Native American necklace #1.

Odd request for Christmas #2.

So, a Stacked Fetish Necklace is one where the hand carved stone animals are placed closer together than normal, in essence stacked on top of each other. Here is an example of a regular fetish necklace and a stacked fetish necklace by the same artist, Navajo Neil Thomas.

19-Animal Fetish Necklace by Navajo Neil Thomas

43-Animal STACKED fetish necklace by Navajo Neil Thomas

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Hector Goodluck Monument Valley Fetish Necklace

Hi Paula,

I absolutely have fallen in love with your Monument Valley fetish necklace
($180.) I have never seen anything like it, and I traveled everywhere
throughout those areas 3 times and I loved the red rocks in Arches National
Park, Bryce,and Zion. Your beads are very spiritual to me and they tell me
many stories from my past experiences. My question is, would it be possible for me to buy just the beads of the necklace so I can string it myself? Thank you so much, Jan

Monument Valley Necklace by Hector Goodluck, Navajo

Hi Jan,

I know what you mean about those necklaces – they are unique and engaging. I believe Hector Goodluck is the only one who carves those images and makes a
Monument Valley necklace. I knew he made them but it took us about a year to be able to get them from him ! I just feel like I am “wearing the area” when I have mine on.
We only sell the artist’s work as is, but it would be easy to restring them to your liking. They come with earrings for $180, so there you have some additional beads for your custom project.


Paula

Fetishes & carvings include features of Navajo life in Monument Valley such as:
  • hogan
  • corn
  • mustang horse
  • mountain sheep
  • burro
  • jackrabbit
  • prairie dog,
  • sheep
  • horse
  • lizard
  • Window Rock
  • Mitten Butte
  • Camel Butte
  • Rain God Mesa.


Hi Paula,

Thanks for getting back to me. I will put the necklace at the top of my wish
list for Christmas presents. It has such depth and each fetish has its own
story to tell. So amazing! Jan


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Native American Hopi Third Mesa Necklace

Hi Paula -

I am trying to find information about a sterling silver necklace. I bought it about 1975 and was told it was Hopi work from Third Mesa. I have been unable to find anything else like it after much searching and have no idea if that information is correct or if the necklace has any value. It is clearly handmade and has a hallmark stamp of a feather on the reverse of each pendant. Can you help me? Thanks very much!

Beth

Hi Beth,

First a little background. The Hopi, population approximately 10,000, live on the Hopi Reservation, a 2439 square mile tract completely surrounded by the Navajo Reservation.

Mesas are land formations that are also called “table tops” because they are raised masses of land with level tops and three steep sides. On the Hopi Reservation, there are three such mesas called First Mesa, Second Mesa and Third Mesa. Each mesa has several Pueblos (villages) on it. There are 12 Pueblos in all on the 3 Mesas.

Since you mention Third Mesa, I’ll just mention that the villages of Kykotsmovi, Old Oraibi, Hotevilla and Bacavi are located there. Old Oraibi dates back to between 1050 and 1150 and is said to be the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States.

So now to your necklace which is below.

I received your drawing of the feather hallmark and it looks very much like the hallmark of Jacob Poleviyouma, Jr. of the Sun Clan in the Shungopavi-Hotevilla Pueblo. He learned his trade at the Guild and began producing silver work in 1976. He passed away in 1986.

What is “the Guild”? That’s short for the Hopi Silvercraft Guild formed in 1949 by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and the Hopi Government Agency. For twenty years, the Guild provided classes, a central workshop and a stable marketing outlet for Hopi silversmiths.

For further reference on symbols on a Hopi overlay necklace, you might like to read

Native American Hopi Overlay Symbols – Thanksgiving

Enjoy your necklace !

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Native American Fetishes – Zuni Carving Families

All tribes in the Southwest US make small stone carvings. Sacred ones are called fetishes. The Pueblo Indians have developed the use of these carvings and it is the Zuni that are the most skillful stone carvers of the Pueblos. Evidence of fetish use has been documented to pre-Columbian times. Columbian times refer to those that occurred after European influence, or after Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492.

While there were only a few dozen Zuni carvers as recent as 20 or 30 years ago, today there may be as many as 300 Zuni carvers that belong to a dozen or more noted Zuni artist families.

Here are some of the Zuni carvers’ family names:

©  2010 Horsekeeping   © Copyright Information

BooneZuni Horse Fetish Carving
BooquaHand made Native American Indian Pig fetish carving
BowannieZuni penguin Fetish Carving
Cachini Hand made Native American Indian Fox fetish carving
CooeyateHand made Native American Indian Fox fetish carving
DavisHand made Native American Indian Ram fetish carving
DeyuseHand made Native American Indian horse fetish carving
GasperZuni wolf Fetish Carving
HalateZuni turtle Fetish Carving
HalooZuni owl Fetish Carving
LaateZuni coyote Fetish Carving
LaiwaketeZuni Horse Fetish Carving
LasilooZuni Horse Fetish Carving
LeekyaZuni Horse Fetish Carving
LementinoHand made Native American Indian sheep fetish carving

LonaseeZuni bear Fetish Carving
LucioHand made Native American Indian Buffalo fetish carving
LunaseeZuni tutrle Fetish Carving
MacHand made Native American Indian Ram fetish carving
MahootyZuni bear Fetish Carving
NatewaZuni horse Fetish Carving
PanteahZuni ram Fetish Carving
PintoZuni ram Fetish Carving
Poncho Hand made Native American Indian Rabbit fetish carving
PonchuellaHand made Native American Indian Pig fetish carving
QuamZuni Horse Fetish Carving
QuandelacyZuni bear Fetish Carving
ShackAuthentic Native American Indian  horse carving fetish
TsikewaZuni bear Fetish Carving
WallaceHand made Native American Indian Ram fetish carving

For more detailed information on Zuni carving families, refer to Zuni Fetishes & Carvings by Kent McManis.

Zuni Fetishes and Carvings by Kent McManis

Zuni Fetishes and Carvings by Kent McManis

A Native American fetish is a carving from rock, shell, antler, wood or other material that depicts an animal or other spirit. The carving captures the spirit and the essence of the animal, not necessarily its exact detailed conformation. When a carving has been blessed during a Zuni Medicine ceremony at the winter solstice, it becomes a fetish and is considered sacred. Fetishes are either kept by the carvers or given away to members of their tribe or other people.

Carvings that are very old may have been handed down for generations or have been tribal possessions for hundreds of years. It is believed that these carvings were actually live animals at one time and were petrified into stone beings by a magic bolt of lightning during the drying of the world. There were many such beings all over the earth’s surface which have been found over the years. It is said that whosever is of the good fortune to see such beings should treasure them for the sake of their sacred power which was given to them during the earth’s creation.

Today what we sell and most of what is sold elsewhere as a fetish is actually a rock carving, but it is very common to refer to them as fetishes, so we describe these wonderful stone animals as fetish carvings.

When one believes that a spirit resides in an inanimate object, that is called animism. When an inanimate object, such as a carving reminds one of the spirit of a being, that is a different matter. The difference between the two words is primarily a matter of belief. But in respect to the Zuni tradition, these carvings are not fetishes. However choosing one of these carvings is a very personal matter. If a carving speaks to you and makes you feel a certain way when you look at it, perhaps it is what you have been looking for to put on your desk or carry in your pocket. Similarly, if you are on a walk and you happen upon a stone that is already shaped like a buffalo and you pick it up and make it yours, that is powerful.

According to Zuni traditions, animals are divided up into 3 categories:

1. Game animals are those the furnish flesh to man. Today these animals are often referred to as prey animals because they are the prey of meat-eating predators. This would include deer, elk and rabbit, to name a few.

2. Water animals are those associated sacredly with water, not necessarily just animals who live in the water. This would include the dolphin, frog and the turtle.

3. Prey beings are those animals who hunt other animals to eat. Today these animals are often referred to as predators who prey upon game animals. This would include bear, wolf, and mountain lion.

Traditional carvings, sometimes referred to as “reservation fetishes”, tend to be of the “old style” with few details and are most commonly Prey Beings. Old style carvings are basically rectangular pieces of stone that have been shaped into animal forms. Often it is difficult to differentiate between a bear and wolf, for example, or a wolf and a mountain lion. They all look similar, kind of hunkered to the ground. The old style carvings make one think that the Native American artist saw an animal in a stone and just coaxed it out with a few simple lines. These are often referred to as “concretion fetishes”, stones that require very little carving to bring out or release the animal in the stone.

For hundreds of years, other tribes procured fetishes from the Zuni. While it is not customary for a Zuni to carve domestic animals, such as horses, sheep, cattle and goats, for personal use, they do so for Navajo herdsmen to protect their animals. That is why it is possible to purchase a wide variety of Zuni horse carvings today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Native American stone carvings can be quite ornate and detailed and very beautiful. They often have much intricate work and various types of inlay. Also, the posture of the animal might be different from that of traditional carving. Modern carvers might depict an animal running, rearing, sitting or standing up on its hind legs. Some carvers give a bear a fish to eat, so the carving becomes a miniature sculpture with a story.