The Jewelry of the Santo Domingo
At one time most of the tribes in the Southwest produced stone and shell bead necklaces. Today bead making is largely limited to the pueblo of Santo Domingo, which trades widely with other tribes. Bead making is an ancient craft that has remained virtually unchanged until very recently. Even today a few stone and shell workers among the Indians of this pueblo use the old style pump drills on occasion, though withy the finest diamond and tungsten-carbide drill points that modern technology can provide. Some even make their own drill points, especially for the exceptionally fine work produced by a few highly skilled bead makers. Bead necklaces are often called "heishe", from the Keresan-speaking Santo Domingo Pueblo word for shell. Seashells were prized over more available freshwater shells because of their association with the ocean, the source of life-giving summer rains. Many species of shells were obtained from the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez and carried inland by prehistoric Indian traders. The fineness of the beads, determined by the number per inch and their diameter, as well as smooth finish and uniform size, is a result of the maker's skill, time, and tools. A few bead makers today are able to produce a strand of beads so fine that they exceed the finest of the prehistoric bead necklaces.