Large Mosaic Shell Pendant – Let’s Look

Here is another one of those mystery pieces that came in a 100+ piece estate lot. Most of the items in this gentleman’s collection (he collected for over 60 years) have strong provenance and/or hallmarks.

So I am going to give this a good examination. First I will post photos of the item I am examining, then I’ll follow with the reference material I dug up on these large mosaic shell pendants.

The specs:

The entire necklace weights 252 grams

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The necklace is 24 inches long and made of very nice turquoise nuggets that are strung on a metal wire. I am of the opinion that this is a married piece, that is, the more contemporary necklace was added or substituted later. Perhaps if this shell pendant originally came with a traditional heishi necklace and the pendant was attached to it with fiber or thread (as was done and you will see below in the reference section), the necklace or attachment might have broken and this was what the owner did to make it work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The shell pendant is is 5 1/2″ wide and 5″ tall. The shell is relatively flat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is attached to the necklace by sterling silver wire. This might be a more recent evolution of the necklace ( see my comment above about married piece.) You can see where there were several attempts to drill a hole on the left to find one where the pendant balanced correctly.  Remember this when we later look at one of the research pieces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The inside of the shell is mostly white with faint hints of peach. It is of the shape and size of a large spiny oyster shell.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here are some closeups of the inlay. Note the black material between the turquoise pieces. The white mosaic pieces appear to be Mother of Pearl but I am not sure if the black is Acoma Jet, old phonograph records or other substitute material. The reddish brown tiles are pipestone, a material that was noted to be used in the Santo Domingo pueblo (Baxter Encyclopedia page 156).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

southwest design border669

southwest design border669

NOW I AM SHIFTING GEARS TO THE RESEARCH MATERIAL………..HERE’S WHAT I FOUND

Shell pendants are some of the earliest jewelry found in archaeological sites in Arizona. The Hohokam, Salado, and Sinagua peoples obtained the shells by trade or travel. The shells are native to the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Coast.

Prehistoric people used lac or pine pitch to adhere the mosaic to the shell.

lac  – a resinous substance secreted as a protective covering by the lac insect, used to make varnish, shellac, sealing wax, dyes, etc.

Pine resin is a clear sticky substance secreted by damaged limbs or roots of pine trees. The resin can be used as is or made into a more useful pine pitch or pine tar which is black.

This tradition of mosaic inlay on shells is associated with Santo Domingo (Kewa) Pueblo of New Mexico.

From the Encyclopedia of Native American Jewelry (Paula Baxter) “Between 1920 and 1950, not all Santo Domingo jewelry making was of good quality and pieces from this period betray inventive uses of substitute materials – especially when the traditional materials were not available (such as using pieces of phonograph records or automotive battery cases in place of jet or onyx).”

The contemporary revival of the art form is mainly due to Angie Reano Owen. Santo Domingo artists Mary Coriz Lovato and Jolene Bird also makes mosaic inlay on large shells.

Today the main difference is that black epoxy glue is now used instead of pine pitch.

scan0249 a

from North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment – Dubin

 

scan0249 a2

 

scan0249 b2

North American Indian Jewelry and Adornment – Dubin

scan0249 b

scan0250 a

A Contemporary Santo Domingo Necklace shown in Southwest Art Defined page 141 Caption should say “Angie Reano Owen”

scan0251 a

Southwest Silver Jewelry – Baxter

scan0251 a2

Note that this pendant is suspended from the heishi necklace by a fiber tie. There are several holes drilled in the shell to allow this. This necklace is said to be from the 1920s.

scan0251 a3

scan0252 a

Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest: The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection

scan0252 a4

Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest: The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection

scan0252 a3

EVALUATION SUMMARY:

This is a married piece.

The necklace is more contemporary and was added later, attaching the pendant to the necklace with sterling silver wire.

The shell pendant shows the following positive signs for it being a vintage Native American made piece:

It is based on the proper size and shape shell.

The adhesive between the turquoise is black which is traditional, whether pitch or glue.

Pipestone and Mother of Pearl are associated with Santo Domingo work. It is possible the color of the base spiny oyster shell was faded or off color, so the artist decided to add the pipestone mosaic to brighten up the piece.

The black material is unidentified at this point – it could be jet or an old record or car battery.

What do you think? Please leave comments and additional reference information below.

Paula

 

Zuni artist Charlotte Dishta makes beautiful blanket pattern inlay

Charlotte Dishta has been making jewelry since the 1980s and is known for her mosaic rug pattern inlays.

Here is a beautiful example of a rug pattern on a vintage NOS (New Old Stock) belt buckle.

She uses the traditional four color materials of Acoma Jet, Turquoise, Mother of Pearl and Coral.

BU126-BG-inlay-dishta-1 BU126-BG-inlay-dishta-5Paula

Benjamin Becenti Inlay Storyteller Concho Belt shows Navajo life

Born about 1950, Benjamin Becenti is the son of Robert Becenti, Sr and the
brother of Robert Becenti Jr. He is from Crownpoint, New Mexico. He has been
active in inlay work since the 1970s.

He is well known for his wonderful inlay storyteller belts. Each panel shows a different scene from Navajo life.

CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-5

 

CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-7 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-8 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-9 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-10 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-11 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-12 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-13 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-14 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-15 CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-16

He uses turquoise, mother of pearl, acoma jet, red coral and orange spiny oyster for his inlay work.

This belt is NOS, New Old Stock,  vintage but never used.

CB58-CCC-storyteller-becenti-2Paula

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.

N200-jacla-turq-nugget-1

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.

N198-turq-adj-oldstone-3

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

N200-jacla-turq-nugget-7

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.

N199-jacla-turq-nugget-2N199-jacla-turq-nugget-3

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

N198-turq-adj-oldstone-1

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

Navajo Inlaid Knives by Doris Yazzie

Navajo silversmith Doris Yazzie purchases various knives, usually Buck or Schrade, that have wooden handles.

She then replaces portions of the wood with beautiful inlays of turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral, mother of pearl, acoma jet and sterling silver channels.

She adds her hallmark “DY” to one of the blades as well as “NAVAJO”.

What a good idea !!

Mole Tracks Under the Snow

I hiked across the pastures yesterday taking advantage of the warm weather.

The snow has melted and revealed mole tracks on the top of the ground where the moles were busy tunneling under the snow.

Mole Tracks Revealed After the Snow Melts

Jet Mole Fetish Carving by David Yazzie, Navajo

The mole is one of the guardians of the six directions.  The mole guards the lower regions of the earth.

Mole – The Protector of the Underworld and Crops, Awareness, Introspection


Black and Silver Bead Necklace – Help Me Identify Please

Hi Paula, a few months about I emailed pics of a necklace I owned and wanted to know if you could tell me something about it.  Hadn’t heard back and thought I would try again.  I can email photos, but the make up of the necklance is silver beads and black beads that seem to not be stone or glass.  They actually seem to be plastic.  The chain is silver along with the Sheild with feathers.  But I don’t see a mark. Thank you for any help you can offer. Eileen

Hi Eileen,

Yeah I usually run about 2 months behind on answering questions, then Christmas came and I got even behinder !

Well it is hard to say for sure from a photo, but as soon as you said plastic, I thought acoma jet because it is very lightweight and sometimes is mistaken for plastic by people who haven’t seen or handled any jet items before.  If the silver is sterling silver, I would bet the black beads are acoma jet.

If the silver is just silver tone metal, then it could be that the black beads are plastic.

The silver beads and end findings do look Native American style. The round beads look like bench made old style necklace beads.

Without seeing it in person or being able to test it for sterling and without any hallmarks, that is about the best I can do !

Paula