Turtles are an important fetish. Since they live in and around water, they are a major rain-bringer. The Zuni are farmers who rely on rain for irrigating their crops, so turtles, and frogs, are symbols of good luck, abundance and happiness.
This dramatic carving is made from turtle-green serpentine, with the inlaid design as the major element. The body is carved in a fairly abstract way, suggesting the flippers, tail, and the mouth. Inlaid on the turtle’s back is a boldly designed oval of stones and shell, adding strong color and pattern.
Natural materials include jet, white alabaster, pipestone, mother of pearl, chrysocolla, and turquoise. The dense saturation of pipestone and jet is balanced by the delicate alabaster, the iridescence of the mother of pearl, and the sky-blue and teal turquoise and copper-bearing chrysocolla.
We don’t know who carved this striking turtle, but are very glad we have it. Now, it is ready to bring good luck, and its good looks, to a new home.