—Above all else among his purely private and individual possessions, the Pueblo Indian prizes his jewelry. Apparently he has done so
from the earliest time. Archaeologists have unearthed many smoothly turned disks of stone and shell pierced with a hole in the center for the purpose of being strung on thongs of deerskin. Furthermore, great numbers of crude beads and pendants have been found, which undoubtedly were worn as necklaces and earbobs by the prehistoric men who lived in cliff houses and communal towns.
The Indian first used as jewelry whatever was near at hand of a decorative nature. Seed pods, acorn hulls, the teeth and bones of animals picked up promiscuously and perforated and strung together to be hung about his person—these were the early and crude expression of this intimate kind of ornamentation. As his culture evolved, his amazing capacity for painstaking labor developed new forms of beads from the more precious materials. Soon he was not only adorning himself with the graywhite sea shells obtained from the far Pacific or from the scintillating waters of the Gulf, and with the reddish coral brought back by runners from their trading expeditions into Mexico, but was also decking his neck and arms and ears with ornaments made of the brilliant turquoise with its matrix of soft brown. This was mined from the rough stretches to the east of the Rio Grande and to the south of Zuñi. Beads were also made from the chunks of lignite and the dull pink quartz which crumbled from the outcroppings along the rocky ridges.
Many kinds of shells were used as bead and ornament. The small, barrelshaped olive shell (Olivella ) with its tapering ends and the tiny conch with its reducing spiral could be strung together one after the other on necklace or bandoleer, or tied to buckskin and fabric as tinkler and fringe. Multitudinous flat shells, either whole or in part, were brought into use as bead and pendant. The larger, oval abalone shell (Haliotis ) was often hung at the base of the neck, where its iridescent, pearly inner surface gleamed softly against the rich brown tones of the skin (pl. 21).
With its piercing blue, the turquoise reflects the power and glory of the daytime sky from which come life and beauty in the warmth of the
purifying and nurturing sun and the repose of the rain-bringing and shadowing cloud. Turquoise is the most highly prized of the Indian gems, and it has been worn throughout the entire historic period of Pueblo life; in the records of the Coronado expedition it was noted that the Pueblo Indians wore turquoise in their ears "as well as on their necks and on their wrists". Moreover, it has value as an economic investment, At Zuñi, "after the sale of wool in the spring a man liquidates his debts and invests the balance in turquoise".
The bright, soft red of the coral is used to offset and intensify the beauty of the turquoise. Thus the Indian is able to combine two natural elcments which complement each other in color an dequal each other in tone value.
Since the earliest times, small disk-shaped beads have been made by the Pueblos. In excavations and ruins many examples of exquisite workmanship have been found. The process by which these beads are now made is as follows. The material is roughly chipped out to a little more than the desired size, and then a hole is bored in the center with a drill pump. This is a device like the spindle, with a flywheel on a long, slender shaft. A stone or metal point is attached to one end, and at the other two buckskin thongs support a crosspiece with a large hole in which the shaft may move freely. The buckskin thongs are twisted around the shaft, and the point of the drill is placed in the center of the bead and made to revolve by a pumping motion with the crosspiece, while the flywheel produces rotation which unwinds the thongs in one direction and rewinds them in the other. The bead is drilled halfway through from one side and then is turned over and the drilling is completed. Shell beads require but few strokes, whereas turquoise, jet, and
coral require much drilling. When a number of rough beads have been drilled, they are strung in a tight column on a length of cord and the whole string is ground to an even size on a slab of sandstone or between two stones. The beads are then sorted and matched by color and size, and strung in necklaces of one, two, or even four strands. White shell is often interspersed with small symmetrical beads or large, rough chunks of turquoise, and short strings of turquoise with a few beads of coral are looped over the long strands and bunched together at the bottom. These same small strings of turquoise are sometimes tied with thongs in the ears and from this position peep from beneath the black, bobbed side hair.
Another form of jewellike decoration is the mosaic pendant, delicate and of beautiful design. Mosaics consist mainly of small, flat pieces of turquoise, coral, quartz, and jet set together in simple patterns. Their base is the softly curving back of a clamlike shell or a glittering piece of jet, to which they are glued with piñon gum.
When the Spanish colonists came, silver was introduced to the pueblos. For a long time this new material had little or no effect on the Indian, and then suddenly there sprang up a remarkable silver-working industry. This was dominated by the Navaho. Today the foremost jewelers among the pueblos are the people of Zuñi and Santo Domingo. Here, round silver beads, and occasionally the conventionalized silver squash blossoms, are strung into necklaces terminating, like those of the Navaho, in a curved pendant set with turquoise. Turquoise and the soft, rich silver are used together in a hundred patterns. "The Zuñs are freest in combining these two elements; with them a silver bracelet is hardly more than a setting for fine, deep blue stones".
Silver earrings are shaped to resemble the dragonfly, the butterfly, or some bird, and all are set with turquoise. Silver and turquoise rings are ubiquitous, as jewelry is worn by all: men, women, and children. Proud is the mother whose baby wears about his neck a string of tiny turquoise
beads, or on his arm a little silver bracelet. "The amount of turquoise worn by an impersonator is limited only by his borrowing capacity. The necklaces cover the whole chest, frequently also the whole back.... The way of wearing the necklaces is indicative of rank and position. Necklaces front and back indicate a Katcina of importance; necklaces doubled over and worn close to the throat are a badge of society membership."