Mosaic Inlaid Pendant on Spiny Oyster Shell Beads

Charlene Sanchez Reano



A virtuoso piece by a stellar artist who has won much recognition, both in awards and in reference books on Native jewelry, for her exceptional updating of ancient inlay tradition.

This truly original piece seems to channel both pre-history and the modern esthetic of Georgia O’Keefe, who treasured natural objects such as this sea-polished shell. In the old days, chunks of stones and pretty shells were attached to larger shells with plant resin and other goop. Here, this historic form of adornment has been refined and transformed into a fascinating and fashionable pendant for dark purple spiny oyster disks. No goop here; modern methods and techniques create a chic necklace that has an up-to-date yet archaic aura.

The smoothly gleaming shell hosts Charlene’s award-winning inlay of turquoise, multiple colors of spiny oyster shell, lapis, abalone and various colors of mother-of-pearl, interspersed with jet, and winding up and around the sinuous form in a series of basket-weave rectangles.

This yin of the curving, curling shell works with the yang of the rectangular lines of the inlay to create a marvelous, dramatic design. But notice how the interior “bones” of the shell mimic the diagonal lines of the inlaid stones. The seeming contradiction of forms is actually very harmonious. A few accents of tiny baby olive shell heishi and a few pieces of turquoise interrupt the flow of the purple spiny oyster to complete this magnificent necklace.

Charlene’s signature is the colorful, inlaid block at the top of one of the strands.

Truly a singular piece, by a much-collected artist!

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