This circa 1930s Santo Domingo Depression Era thunderbird necklaces is charming and rustic, and still carries a pawn tag from the trading post in Farmington where I purchased the piece. The necklace is all original, including still strung on only slightly thicker than average sewing thread. The tabs going up the sides are smallish yet the bird is medium sized. There is no closure or clasp; like many of these that I've sold, this one goes on and off over the head. If you don't know about this style of jewelry, you will be astonished to learn of its increasingly important spot in Native American jewelry making history. From an article about thunderbird jewelry: "Born in the late 1920s, Thunderbird jewelry was partly a response to the increasing cost and scarcity of such traditional materials as shell and jet — and partly a response to seeing the new yet inexpensive Bakelite jewelry worn by so many visitors in the rapidly shrinking Depression-era tourist market. Soon the Santo Domingo Pueblo jewelry makers were meshing the nation's oldest native jewelry-making tradition with cheaper alternative materials, including black plastic salvaged from car batteries and 78-rpm vinyl records as well as colored plastic salvaged from hair combs, kitchenware and eating utensils. Since small turquoise chips remained readily available from local mines, the newly created Thunderbird form offered the jewelry makers a way to cut costs dramatically while still retaining one of the signature materials of an age-old tradition. Despite the adoption of new materials — which also included beads made of gypsum rather than shell — and the substitution of the Thunderbird figure for their traditional geometric forms, the traditional Santa Domingo Pueblo jewel makers continued to produce their wares in virtually the same way as before, using the same hand-made tools the culture had known for generations. They made holes with hand drills and punches just as their grandparents had, and they rolled beads into round shapes with stones whose use dated back even further. Duce Cement was the adhesive of choice for many of the families, whose members would cut, then piece their materials together using a variety of distinctive forms and patterns." The off-white beads in this piece are heavy, and they feel almost like bone. Some of the tabs are missing small chips of turquoise, and there is a crack in one red wing--likely cracked during the making of the piece. Ideally, this should be restrung for wearing.
The bird pendant measures about 2" tall by 1-7/8" wide, and the necklace is about 26" end to end. Weighs about 57g.
Great collectible piece of a vanishing history.
Please convo with questions, or call (505) 369-6865. Will return your call as soon as possible.
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