Santo Domingo Jewelry

While contemporary Indian jewelry has followed many paths, the work most closely linked to the jewelry creations of ancestral Puebloans is the stone and shell necklaces, pendants, rings and bracelets produced at Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico.  Ray Lovato’s heishi necklaces and flat stone earrings provide one of the best modern examples of how ancient Puebloan jewelry looked. (Continued below)

Inlay Mosaic Shell Pendant by Mary Coriz Lovato

Inlay Mosaic Shell Pendant by Mary Coriz Lovato (#01)


Stone Mountain Heishi Necklace by Ray Lovato

Stone Mountain Heishi Necklace by Ray Lovato (#163)


Stone Mountain Turquoise Necklace by Ray Lovato

Stone Mountain Turquoise Necklace by Ray Lovato (#161)


When stone merchants come to the village, competition for turquoise and other materials is fierce.  Using five-gallon cans for chairs, Santo Domingo women arrange themselves around tables piled with stones and shells to individually pick the raw materials they will shape into their jewelry.  

Discoidal bead necklaces known as heishi require rough-cut stones which are first drilled, usually with electric drills and grinding machines, and then strung on a wire.  Next the artist holds both ends of a wire strand and carefully draws the beads back and forth across a grinding wheel or other rough surface, shaping the heishi.  The diameter of the beads can be very fine or more substantial.  The artist then strings the beads on a softer cord such as cotton.  Formed this way, good Santo Domingo heishi should feel uniform and smooth to the touch when running your fingers along the beads.

Mosaic inlay is still prevalent among several families at Santo Domingo Pueblo.  Traditional backings - wood or shell - gave way to experimental materials such as phonograph records or car batteries in the early half of the twentieth century.  Today shell is widely used as a backing.  Santo Domingo artists my leave the shells in their natural form or trim them to a certain shape.  As with other types of Puebloan mosaic inlay, the artist then creates a design or pattern on the backing with many varied-sized stones.  Santo Domingo mosaic work tends to be more abstract in design than the geometric and pictorial mosaics of Zuni artists.

Artists who create Santo Domingo Jewelry:

Mary Coriz Lovato
Mary Coriz Lovato
Ray Lovato
Ray Lovato

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This site was last updated on October 23, 2020.

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