REAL Native American Jewelry~

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  1. Welcome and thanks for sharing your grandmother’s jewelry. It is beautiful and looks great on you! Definitely a special way to remember her. I’ll tell you as much as I can about each piece.

    The first necklace is a mix of bead types that I don’t know if I have seen together like this before. The small tan beads are made of shell and called heishe, and they are strung with silver “Navajo pearls” and turquoise nuggets. Heishe is very desirable when it is all done by hand as it’s a time-consuming process, but I haven’t developed the skill yet to distinguish handmade from manufactured heishe. The center rectangular turquoise stone with silver caps is very unusual. The somewhat eclectic style of this necklace makes me think 70’s, and if I had to guess I would say this was assembled from purchased parts, possibly by a Navajo artist. The sun mark on the silver cone beads is not an artist’s hallmark but a decoration that is commonly found on manufactured beads of that shape.

    The bracelet is scrimshaw, or at least made to look like scrimshaw—etchings on bone or ivory. This is something I know almost nothing about, but I think that it is commonly done on composite (plastic) material in place of real bone or ivory. You might be able to tap it on your teeth to get an idea if it’s plastic or not. I haven’t known Native Americans to work in this style but I suppose it’s possible for Pacific Northwest indigenous artists.

    The third necklace with the dancing human figure and inlay stones is Native American. I would not call the figure a Kokopelli (who is almost always depicted as a humpback playing a flute) although I can see the similarity. The bird symbol on the back is a pictograph artist’s hallmark. I feel like I have seen this one before but wasn’t able to find it in my hallmark book. The stones are jet, turquoise, and coral. It is on a handmade chain as well which is nice.

    The rectangular pendant was likely added to the filigree style Mexican chain by your grandmother; it was probably purchased as just a pendant. I think that the pendant is Native American but I’m also wondering if it could possibly be Mexican? It looks to me to be handmade and hand stamped. I’m pretty sure the top and bottom stones on the back are coral but I’m not sure what that middle stone is.

    Those long silver tubes on the last necklace are manufactured. This, like the first one, may be assembled by a Native American artist out of purchased parts. Or, it could be “Southwest Style,” meaning not Native American made.

    As far as cleaning, you would not damage them if you were to polish them to your liking with a cloth. Don’t dip or use creams. The look you prefer is really up to individual preference. A lot of people do like vintage pieces to have a patina though, so if you’re planning on selling it’s always best to avoid polishing and let the buyer decide.

    Hope this helps!
    ZaneetaS and essiedub like this.

  2. Scrimshaw - yes that’s what it’s memory erg.
    I didn’t know much about heishe beads. Thanks for that info.
    Yes not kokopelli.. they must all have some name/designation.
    I really need to get a book and get better educated. I keep thinking that I’ll learn more when I make my pilgrimage to NM and touch and feel these things in perso. Meanwhile this forum and the Turquoise People forum is my learning !
  3. Wow, thank you so much for your detailed input! I really appreciate it, it's great to have any additional information at all about these pieces. I'm not planning on selling, I want to give them to my daughter some day -- but I want to be able to tell her something about them, too, if possible!

    I lumped all of these pieces together as "Native American" on the basis of their style, which is... admittedly pretty ignorant on my part. I was likely wrong about many of them -- so I also appreciate your comments about that, in particular! I'm also just starting to learn about each of them, as well as Native American jewelry styles in general.

    For some reason, I believe my father may have some additional info on the dancing man pendant. I will see if I can dig it out of his memory, ha. I can say, though, that I think you're dead-on about the necklace with the large turquoise piece being from the 70s -- my grandma lived in Santa Fe during the 70s/80s and that is when/where she got most of these pieces.

    And it's entirely possible that the dual-sided pendant is Mexican and I just assumed it was Native American bc of the turquoise -- not only is that chain from Mexico (which I am pretty sure it's the original one, assuming it came with one like you said) but my grandma also had other pieces that were definitely Mexican. So she collected a bit of those as well.

    Thank you again!
  4. Here is a good article describing what goes into hand making heishe:
    essiedub likes this.
  5. You're welcome, I'm glad to be of any help. I don't think it was ignorant of you to assume that they were all Native American, they definitely all have that feel and for all I know they could be. It can be difficult, if not impossible though, to say with certainty that something is Native American made if it is not hallmarked. That's why for the two unhallmarked necklaces I say they could be Southwestern Style, which is basically in the style of Native American jewelry but not made by a Native American. For the rectangular pendant I am leaning towards Native American vs. Mexican, although that too could theoretically be Southwestern Style since we just don't know. And the scrimshaw bracelet like I said could be Pacific Northwest for all I know; I am just more familiar with the southwestern tribes jewelry styles.

    If you find out anything more from your dad about the dancing man pendant let us know!
    essiedub and ZaneetaS like this.
  6. I just love this thread. :heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart:
    essiedub and chessmont like this.