Long Dangle Zuni inlay earrings by artist: Cleo Kallestewa
Combining many stones into one piece makes some of the most beautiful and exciting Native American jewelry. Depending on how the stones are cut, this style of combining stones can be called Cluster-Work, Needle Point, Petit Point and Snake Eyes. These four styles emerged in the early 1920’s-1940’s and are primarily made by the Zuni Tribe, although some Navajos will make similar designs. These styles have a feminine quality to them, as the stones are set in small and elegant settings.
These designs are very tedious as each bezel (the silver holding the stone) is individually shaped and solder. Then the stones are cut, glued to matchsticks, then shaped and polished with a series of grinding wheel
White & Gold Mother of Pearl
The provenance story of the White Mother of Pearl shell begins in the remote crystal-clear turquoise waters of Northern Australia, nurturing and growing the sought after White South Sea Pearls. The lustrous pearly white color of the shells reflects the pristine natural environment in which they are formed and shells from this area are renowned to have the purest white coloring.
Nacre also known as mother of pearl, is an organic–inorganic composite material produced by some mollusks as an inner shell layer; it is also the material of which pearls are composed. It is strong, resilient, and iridescent.
The Sleeping Beauty Mine, located in Globe, Arizona, is no longer an active mine. For many years it produced a wide range of turquoise that is now even more highly prized for its solid soft blue color, with little or no matrix. The color of the turquoise ranges from a deep royal blue to a light sky blue. The mine originally was worked for copper and gold but during the last five decades or so it has produced gemstone quality turquoise in quantities to satisfy the commercial market. In general, the miners lease portions of the “dumps” and sort turquoise from there.
There is a small town in south central Italy, near Naples, famous for its cameos. Their needs for huge quantities of this material over the years have always kept the supply down and demand high. The clear blue is reminiscent of old Persian turquoise and is without doubt the most preferred and prized by Europeans, both for cameos as well as in bead or jewelry form.
There is a sister mine nearby, called the Bluebird, that produces some of the world’s most beautiful azurite. This material is a copper oxide and also contains malachite, chrysocolla as well as a mineralized copper or cuprite. This is a rare and undervalued gemstone that has all but disappeared from the marketplace.
Red coral (Corallium Rubrum) comes from certain areas, such as the Mediterranean, where the specific water temperature and conditions allow coral to thrive. Coral is a hardened tube or branch. Only about 10% of coral is considered jewelry quality. Coral comes in shades from blood-red to orange to pink to white.
Although coral has been used by Stone Age peoples as long as 30,000 years ago to decorate sepulchers (burial vaults), Native American artists have only used coral for the last 600 years.
Jet is a product of high-pressure decomposition of wood from millions of years ago, commonly the wood of trees. Jet is found in two forms, hard and soft. Hard jet is the result of carbon compression and salt water; soft jet is the result of carbon compression and fresh water. Native American Navajo and Pueblo tribes of New Mexico were using regionally mined jet for jewelry and the ornamentation of weapons when early Spanish explorers reached the area in the 1500’s.Today these jet deposits are known as Acoma jet, for the Acoma Pueblo.