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An exceptional10-strand Santo Domingo Pueblo, NM necklace of hand-rolled black jet and white shell “Heishi” beads, c.1990’s

This is an outstanding example of contemporary Santo Domingo Pueblo jewelry making by an unknown, but clearly very talented artist. This is a modern-day reinterpretation or revival of the ancient Anasazi black jet and white shell bead necklaces which were originally made around 1000-1200 A.D. at Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl in northern New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon prehistoric civilization complex and which were later excavated by various American archaeological expeditions to Chaco beginning in the 1890’s.

Chaco Canyon lies about 100 miles as the crow flies from present-day Santo Domingo Pueblo and it is entirely possible and indeed quite likely that modern-day descendants of the prehistoric Chacoan Anasazi are today part of the population of Santo Domingo as they are of other Rio Grande Valley Pueblos.

Examples of prehistoric shell necklaces, turquoise beads and pendants, c. 1100 A.D. excavated at Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Photo source and © ScienceDirect

This gorgeous necklace is composed of ten large strands of beautifully hand-cut, hand-rolled black jet and white clam shell “heishi” beads interspersed in wonderful varied patterns. Making beads such as this is a completely traditional and painstakingly difficult process dating back many centuries to ancient times. The necklace is finished off with a perfectly-made dark cotton “Pueblo” style wrap. This extremely elegant necklace would look terrific when worn with a tee shirt and jeans or absolutely awesome with the right little black dress. And, as we can well attest it also looks wonderful just hanging on a wall.

The necklace measures 15” in length from the top of the Pueblo-style wrap to the bottom of the shell beads measured while lying flat on a table. The necklace’s circumference all the way around is approximately 30”. The necklace weighs a very comfortable 139 grams or 4 7/8 ounces. The beads have a wonderful, soft "handle" and a marvelous feel both in the hand and on the body. The necklace also has excellent provenance; we purchased it from an experienced longtime East Coast colleague of ours who originally purchased it at Santa Fe Indian Market sometime in the 1990's.

This necklace is an outstanding quality, absolutely dynamite-looking piece of finely crafted modern-day jewelry with a fascinating and enduring ancient American heritage. High fashion, tradition and the ancient world of the Southwest all come together perfectly in this unique and striking piece.


Present-day views of Pueblo Bonito ruins, Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, New Mexico

Photo source and © The Santa Fe New Mexican

Prehistoric Anasazi necklace 10 feet in length comprised of 1,045 white shell and black jet beads excavated by Edgar Lee Hewett in 1931 at Chetro Ketl Pueblo in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

Photo source and © Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe. Published in "Southwestern Indian Jewelry" by Dexter Cirillo, Abbeville Press, 1992, pp. 20.

The Mission Church at Santo Domingo Pueblo, NM, c. 1940.

Photo source and © Museum of New Mexico