This style of beadwork is thought to be the oldest form of jewelry from New Mexico and is still practiced today mostly among Native Americans of the Santo Domingo (Kewa) and San Felipe Pueblos.
This is an absolutely wonderful coral necklace with gorgeous orange hues. The artist worked long hours selecting, hand cutting, and drilling each tiny piece of coral. Each individual bead is roughly ¼” in length and has been hand drilled and hand cut, and then expertly polished. It fairly glows and has a richness about it that goes anywhere with distinction. The ten strands are strung with a wrap, which is very easy to wear and generally indicative of a piece of jewelry that was intended for personal use – not as a piece for sale.
For more than one hundred years, Native artists have used coral to create jewelry for tourists as well as for their own personal use. It has become increasingly valuable as coral has become scarce. The skeletal remains of tiny sea polyps, over harvesting and pollution have contributed to the shortage of coral on the market. Very limited harvesting of coral is allowed today.
There is always a question as to the origin of coral and the origin of the maker of this style necklace. Coral generally came from trade with Indians of Mexico and California, but, of course, in the 20th-century, most coral was purchased from those type traders. Necklaces of this style have traditionally been made by both Navajo and Pueblo artisans and it is difficult to distinguish between works by the two. Although there is no known artist, I have chosen to attribute this to Kewa Pueblo. My rationale for choosing Kewa Pueblo is the use of the pueblo wrap. Navajo artisans most often use silver cones and clasps on necklaces.
In many Native American families, coral, as well as turquoise, was a symbol of their wealth. According to collector and author, Martha Hopkins-Struever, “Coral beads symbolize success and social prominence. When you look at early multi-strand coral necklaces, it becomes evident that the wearer added strands of coral as they were able, as their wealth or social standing grew…” (Hopkins-Struever, 20150
Condition: Excellent – original condition
Provenance: Acquired from a gentleman in New Mexico