Heishi beads are cylindrical beads made out of shells in a consistent and uniform pattern and placed on a string. The name Heishi comes from the Santo Domingo Pueblo Indians of New Mexico who favored the use of shells before the discovery of precious metals. Heishi simply means ‘shell’. The history of the Heishi bead can be tracked back to nearly 6,000 B.C. when the beads where worked by hand and used as ornaments in ceremonies or to show appreciation and admiration. The rich colors and vibrant texture of Heishi Beads set them apart from other early jewelry forms. Now-a-days Heishi beads are mass-produced and amongst some of the most affordable filler beads available on the market. Indeed, the word heishi has been morphed to include many different types of inexpensive beads
View Heishi Beads in New Mexico
Kewa Pueblo is one of the best known tribes of the southwest Indians, largely because of their skill in marketing, their jewelry and other crafts.
Santo Domingo Pueblo Indian History
Making Heishi Beads
The process of making a string of heishi beads by hand requires great skill and undying patience. It starts with choosing which shells to incorporate into the necklace. The most common types available in New Mexico are olive shells, mother-of-pearl, melon shell, coral and sometimes semi-precious stones. The variation of the shells coloration all add to the uniqueness of the strand. Choosing wrong is seldom a problem.
The second step is to cut the shells into small bits – sometimes merely a few centimeters square. The size of the squares will dictate the final size of the bead. The artisan must create larger squares for larger beads, because much of the material will be lost in the process.
The third step is to bore a hole in the center of the square with a specialized tool. Modern day tools are specifically designed to gouge away the center of a heishi bead, but before modernization artisans had to use small sharp stones and other implements to carve and cajole the shell into the desired shape. The process was tedious and strenuous.
The forth step is to loop the shells onto a string. This is where the polishing and grinding begins. While the string is intact with the square beads the shells are polished and sanded against rocks and other abrasives until they take the shape and size that is desired. Slowly they are ground down to resemble a perfectly smooth, uniform string of shells.
All together this process could take days to perform. Of course, in today’s world automation makes this process seem out dated and obsolete. However, as an art form, the creation of heishi beads has a vibrant and rich following.
Other Great Hubs for Native American Jewelry
- Heishi Beads
Amazing prices on Heishi Beads and Beading supplies.
- Apache Arts and Crafts
The Apache Indians are well-known today for their unique culture, but more specifically, their talent in art. Their art mainly encompassed silversmithing, beadwork, sculpting, pottery, and intricate...
- Keshi Pearls
Keshi Pearl Roots All of the following might cause some keshi pearl to develop: 1.An infiltration through a pearl-producing mollusc by a predator that bores via its shell. Similar to a manner in which wild...
- How to Buy Native American Jewelry
Coral and sterling silver cuff. Turquoise and coral on sterling silver cuff. Spiny oyster necklace and earrings with sterling silver. Turquoise and sterling silver cuff. Turquoise and sterling silver...
More by this Author
Mont Blanc, most notable for their high-quality (and costly) writing instruments also has a high-brow catalogue of leather goods, including a very refined line of wallets. I'm an avid fan of Montblanc fountain and...
For some reason there is a huge canon of folks who think that the Mellophone should be the butt of all band related jokes. In fact, there are a fair number of websites that make fun of Mellophones and the poor, degraded...
Let's face it, you don't need a cool guitar pick to play cool guitar -- but it doesn't hurt. Like most hobbies and professions, the more you immerse yourself into your art the more you look for a way to distinguish...
No comments yet.