Heishi Bead Necklaces

Heishi, from the Santo Domingo word meaning “shell,” traditionally referred to necklace shell beads. Today, however, it describes tiny, handmade beads of any material. The Santo Domingo Pueblo carvers are the most proficient heishi producers. To make the minuscule beads, the material (shell, stone, or coral) is sliced into strips, and then cut into small squares, after which holes are drilled through the center. Traditionally, the holes were pierced with cactus spear. Strung together, the rough squares are shaped and smoothed by holding the string against a turning stone wheel. In the process, 60 – 70% of the original material is lost.

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  • Shera hardy April 21, 2022 at 10:58 am

    Sometimes the price is reflected in where you purchase the piece. Some stores have higher rents, sometimes an artist is more in need of a quicker sale. There are many varying factors. Some of the stone might be from the same mine but some of it may be natural, some turquoise maybe treated or enhanced. The one thing you should remember, is if you like it treat your self and buy it. Because you will not see the exact piece again. I watched a beautiful piece of jewelry get away because I waited too long.

  • Guy Palandrani May 29, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I found that to be a simple straight forward description of the process. I still have wondered if when they make heishi beads with turquoise,do they use slab stone,or is it made from small chips. I guess from the description if they cut it into squares, I guess it would be a slab. I also have seen the price range that is so widespread, I could believe that has something to do with the type of turquoise used, but I have seen the same turquoise used and one necklace may be under a couple hundred dollars,and then another with the same turquoise,and the price may be a couple thousand dollars. I know there has to be something different to cause such a wide spread in pricing,and I am comparing the same turquoise and the same bead size and length of necklace.Any idea why?

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