Vintage Purple Spondylus Heishi Necklace

Unknown Artist



This is the kind of necklace Native Americans have worn for centuries – and still do, for special occasions.

Scores of disks carved from rare, purple spiny oyster shell are lined up in graduated size, with the largest – almost 1-inch in diameter, at the bottom, front.

The natural variations in the shell, add lively accents of warm hues to the varying tones of purple, creating a wonderful mix of complementary colors.

In nature, spondylus, (meaning “spiny”) often comes in oranges, yellow, and coral-y red; purple is rare and special, related to the treasured  purple clamshell, or wampum, of East Coast tribes.

We cannot remember who, at Santo Domingo-Kewa Pueblo, made this remarkable necklace, but it is exactly what would have been made – tediously and laboriously  – through the ages

The naturally porous shell, when cut and minimally polished, adds handsome texture to the piece.

Instead of a sinew wrap, the back of the necklace is finished with tiny disks of natural clamshell, which complement the colors in the spiny oyster shell, and contrast in size and polish.

They also make the long necklace more comfortable to wear.

Striking in appearance, this ruggedly beautiful necklace looks wonderful with everything from chunky knits, to suave suits.

Enjoy the beauty, and admire the exacting skill that produced this authentic necklace. It is handsome even when merely displayed.

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