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).

Pen Shell Heishi and Inlay in Native American Jewelry

When I was a kid, we vacationed on Sanibel Island in Florida and I was an avid sea shell collector. One of the most common sea shells I remember was a huge brown fan shaped bi-valve called a Pen Shell (also called Penn Shell but never Pin Shell).

After a storm, the beaches would be covered with them.

They were usually about 8-10 inches long and a glisteny iridescent brown, especially shiny on the inside.

Pen Shells are are part of the family Pinnidae which are large saltwater clams.

Pen Shells are used in inlay and as heishi.

Close up of Pen Shell heishi
Pen Shell heishi used on a fetish necklace
Turquoise nugget necklace with Pen Shell heishi spacers

Pen Shell is sometimes used in inlays and especially since tortoise shell was banned in 1973.