Southwestern jewelry is outside my specialization and frankly I'm a bit tired of it, after living in New Mexico for so many years. However, I can still be impressed now and then by a piece from the neighborhood (Rio Grande pueblo country).
This necklace is one of those pieces. It dates from the 1970s, when overall quality really was better. Wonderful work continues to be done, of course, but mainly at the upper end of the market. What makes this so special is that such skill was applied to shell materials, as opposed to costlier stones like turquoise. There's an amazing profusion of fetishes here, far more than I have the patience to count. Mainly they're birds, but a few turtles, fish and pink bears were thrown in for fun. All the creatures and heishi beads were carved from shimmering mother-of-pearl and other shells and shell linings. Hand-crafted and fully silver-strung, the strands finish with hollow silver beads and a barrel screw-clasp. Quite a lot of age patina is on the silver now -- which, in deference to the purists among us, I haven't polished. You can easily achieve a brighter look, if that's what you prefer.
At its longest, the necklace measures 26 inches; it's in lovely condition, as you see; and its provenance is a Georgia collection. The original owner remembers buying it at either the Santo Domingo or Cochiti pueblo, both in the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area.
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