Examining a Tab Necklace – Is it Kewa, Santo Domingo or Other?

This post is designed to describe the process I go through when I am trying to authenticate whether an item is Native American made or not.

Here is a very pretty necklace that may or may not be Native American made. In this particular case, I’m going to say guilty until proven innocent, in other words, not Native American made unless I can find some solid proof that it is.

Paula's Tab Necklace

Paula’s Tab Necklace

But coming to a verdict is harder than one might think because there are far fewer definitive references for Santo Domingo, Kewa and Pueblo stone necklaces than there are for silver and stone jewelry.

Add to that, the fact that very few stone necklaces have hallmarks of any kind. And finally, tab necklaces are much more uncommon than other Native American jewelry. In fact, this is the first of its kind to arrive here.

First of all, what it it? It is a Tab Necklace – the three inlaid pendants suspended from the heishi choker put it in the Tab Necklace category.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause it measures 17 inches, I would categorize it as a choker as opposed to a necklace which is typically 24-32 inches long.

What is it made of?

The very finely turned and graduated heishi is made from brown shell which varies from a deep amber, dark honey to a very dark brown. It reminds me of tortoise shell in its variegation. The only piece I have for reference that I KNOW is tortoise shell is my beloved Chester Mahooty bracelet shown here.

Chester Mahooty inlay bracelet. The two outermost wings are tortoise shell.

Chester Mahooty inlay bracelet. The two outermost wings are tortoise shell.

The heishi is very smooth and expertly produced. Heishi is made by stringing shell or stone, then grinding, sanding and polishing it into smooth edged circles. Each of the heishi discs in this choker are only 1mm thick. The graduation is very well done.

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This choker is strung on string and finished off with sterling silver cones and a hook and eye fastener. The fastener seems hand made. There is sunburst stamping on the cones.

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Now to the tabs. The base is made of a very dark wood. It is possibly iron wood or cocobolo wood which some Navajo artists use in conjunction with their inlay work.

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Cocobolo wood used in conjunction with inlay knife handles by Navajo Doris Yazzie.

Cocobolo

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The inlay on the tabs of my necklace is made with some very interesting turquoise with matrix and a white material that has the hardness of stone. There are no visible pores in the white material and, because of its density, it has been polished to a very smooth surface. It could be ivory, alabaster, stone composite ??

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The channels between the turquoise and cream pieces are baffling since they have a distinct gold cast to them. They could be brass, jeweler’s gold or some variation.

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Each tab has a thinner channel of metal at the bottom position. On the middle tab, that thin channel almost looks like is has leaked something which could be a metal residue or a metallic colored resin or adhesive.

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As far as age, this necklace was probably made at least 15 years ago and it could be much older.

What do authentic Native American Tab Necklaces look like?

I’m including information on early tab necklaces for historical interest, not to suggest the choker I am researching is one.

from Skystone and Silver, Stacey, Santo Domingo Mosaic Necklace

from Skystone and Silver, Stacey, Santo Domingo Mosaic Necklace

Depression era tab necklaces (made beginning in the 1930’s up to the 1960’s) were constructed from various discarded materials such as 78 rpm records, car battery cases, red plastic dinnerware and Dairy Queen spoons.

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Jewelry by Southwest American Indian: Evolving Designs, Schiffer p 122

The backing for the inlay on vintage tab necklaces was usually black – from records or car batteries.

The heishi used was usually quite thick and made from white clam shell.

Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest; The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection p149. ca 1940

Fine Indian Jewelry of the Southwest; The Millicent Rogers Museum Collection p149. ca 1940

Most of the examples I have been able to find are necklace length, approximately 26-30″.

Generations, the Helen Cox Kersting Collection, Santo Domingo Tab Necklaces 1940-1059

Generations, the Helen Cox Kersting Collection, Santo Domingo Tab Necklaces 1940-1059

The ends were finished off with either a squaw wrap or with cones and hook and eye closures.

What does all of this mean about MY necklace?

I love it. It is beautiful.

Who made it? I don’t know.

Is it Native American made? Possibly but not likely……………here are the Pros and Cons:

Pros – String, cones and clasp, very fine heishi work, nice turquoise.

Cons – Wood backing for the inlay, undetermined material in the channels of the inlay.

If you have comments please leave them at the bottom of this post.

Be sure to read all of the comments as they come in because that is part of the process of learning about these pieces.

Bottom line. Although this is most probably an imported choker from the 1970’s, it is very well made, pretty and looks great on. So even though not a Native American made necklace, it still is a nice vintage item. It is what it is.

Paula

 

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 Pawn Bracelet – Tortoise Shell

Paula,

Would you be kind enough to visit my site Dara’s Attic to help me identify and price my special pawn piece? I so admire your site, and your knowledge.

Purchased at the Trading Post in Capistrano at age 12-13 in 1969, I was trying very hard to learn from my only mentor, the store owner, when I could get down there. She’s been gone for decades but I am still learning.

I LOVE your site, style and presentation.  Dara (the Collector)

Hi Dara,

I visited your site. What wonderful and varied items you have !

Tortoise Shell was used in Native American jewelry until 1973 when it was outlawed. You can see an old tortoise shell bracelet in our pawn shop and I’ve inserted it here also.

Vintage Native American Tortoise Shell Bracelet

Vintage Native American Tortoise Shell Bracelet

When I visited your site, I clicked on the Native American Pawn bracelet on your home page so I could enlarge it. It is pretty hard to see from the one photo what the piece is all about. Having a few more views would be helpful for your potential buyers.  You can visit our Pawn Shop to see how we display our items.

When I enlarged the photo of the bracelet on your site, it seemed like there was a fine crack all the way across the front of the tortoise shell. In my experience, this devalues a piece substantially even though you say the shell and stone seem secure.

However, because the material is rare, it could offset the devaluation by the crack somewhat.

And, if the artist who made the piece is a noted Zuni or Navajo, that would also weigh into the price. If you could tell me what the signature on the back says, that will be most helpful. Oh, and speaking of weighing in, the weight of a bracelet is also a significant factor in pricing those pieces made of precious metals like sterling silver – which I assume this is…………but you don’t say that on the description. Is it marked as Sterling Silver or have you tested it yet to see if it is sterling? You can do that with an inexpensive reagent kit.

One final suggestion is to measure the inside circumference of the bracelet so you can give potential buyers an idea of size. Using a flexible tape measure, measure inside from end to end. Also measure the space between the ends which is called the gap.  For example, you could express this as 6 1/4″ inside circumference from end to end PLUS a 1 1/4″ gap. A bracelet like that would fit approximately a 7 to a  7 3/4″ wrist.

You might also want to provide the measurement at the front from top to bottom so a person would know scale….or put a dime or quarter next to the bracelet in one of the photos.

Best of luck !  Paula