Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More About Spiny Oyster

I was curious to see what I might learn about the spiny oyster and its use in jewelry in books I have at hand. Michael Bahti, in his book Spirit in the Stone: A Handbook of Southwest Indian Animal Carvings and Beliefs (1999) in his section on "Traditional Stones & Other Materials" has this to say:
Commonly known as spiny oyster shell, spondylus comes from the Pacific coast of Baja California and the northwest coast of South America. Until the Spanish introduced coral, it was highly prized for its orange to reddish orange to red colors because it was the only source for these shades. [p.150]
The Quandelacy family has produced some lovely spondylus Zuni carvings shown strung on a Grandmother necklace on page 64 of Dexter Cirillo's South-Western Indian Jewelry (1992).

On page 122 of The Turquoise Trail; Native American Jewelry and Culture of the Southwest (Abrams, 1993) I found a nice photo of a carved spondylus frog effigy (symbol of rain) from the School of American Research Collection, Museum of New Mexico.

One of my favorite books on beads, Louis Sherr Dubin's The History of Beads; From 30,000 B.C. to the Present (Abrams, 1987) provides two outstanding illustrations of South American jewelry made from spondylus beads. Figure 264 features a necklace of blocky graduated beads from the south coast of Peru attributed to the Inca culture circa 1100 A.D. Figure 266 is an incredible bib necklace of predominantly orange spondylus disc beads edged with purple and white shell discs. Measuring 14 inches (43 cm) in width, the piece is from Chan Chan, the capital city of the Chimu in Peru. Dating between 1000-1470 A.D., it is now housed in the American Museum of Natural History in New York

And I can't forget to mention Robert K. Liu's "Spondylus in Precolumbian, Historic and Contemporary Southwest Jewelry" published in Ornament 28(3) Spring 2005. I've been a subscriber for many years.

There, now I can clear one pile off my desk! I'd like to get a look at Jewelry of the Prehistoric Southwest (1978) by E.W. Jernigan. To explore the topic from a more scientific viewpoint, someday I may find the time to examine all of the material that is available on the Biodiversity Heritage Library site. You can check out the amazing list of resources that result from a search there on spondylus. . . but I really have to stop.

Later I hope to put up some pictures of spiny oyster bead strands that are available at Anita's Beads in case you want to make your own multi-strand necklace like the one I made pictured above.

3 comments:

Cyth said...

OOOOOOOOO. Such a pretty necklace !!! Spiny oyster? I love it. Cyth

self taught artist said...

nice to see your working anita!

AnitaNH said...

Thanks to you both for commenting! I feel like I'm just crawling out of my hibernation hole with the arrival of spring, although as I type this, there is snow falling outside! Good thing it's the big "falling sideways" flakes that don't amount to much.