Before I came into a trove of Sleeping Beauty pebble-beads, I bought a vintage strand of all I could afford—these tiny chips. I remember thinking, "How on earth can I treat these in a way that does them honor?" The beads told me what to do, of course. All I had to do was pay attention. They needed: near-white, undyed natural howlite heishi to offset and highlight their unparalleled robin's-egg blue. (BTW, all these photos, except the one on the model, were taken outdoors in natural daylight. They are unretouched and the color is true on my monitor.) You may only have seen howlite before in its usual disguise—dyed to look like turquoise. It can be dyed any color and is often employed as phony coral or lapis heishi. The way to tell if a bead is real turquoise or a dyed fake, BTW, is to make the sacrifice of crushing it with your needle-nose pliers and seeing what the inside looks like. It should be the same color as the outside; definitely not white. There's a lot of VERY clever fake turq on the market, and smashing beads is almost an essential part of the buying process. I photographed the chips in super-hi def and magnification so you can see their color is completely uniform, save for a few scant streaks of matrix, typical of Sleeping Beauty. Were the stone dyed, every little corrugation of the beads' edges would have absorbed the dye to a different degree.
I strung them in the Navajo manner, with heishi making a collar around the neck and gathered into sterling cones at the clasp. The new sterling hook-and-eye are artisan-made. Even the wire used is sterling.
Is there a lot of turquoise here? No. But I think the treatment I've given it outweighs the sum of its parts. (In Texas—my husband is a Texan refugee—they say that it ain't braggin if you kin do it. I think I did it. You are of course at liberty to disagree. I check my ego at the door. Damn thing follows me around sometimes, needy beggar that it is, but I'm getting better at keeping it chained up in the attic. One of these days I'll march it down to the pier and give it cement shoes and a push...)
All told, there are approximately 60" of turquoise spaced by single howlite heishi beads. This necklace was born out of need—I needed to make a little look like a lot; I needed to make chicken salad out of chicken feathers. Did it work? I'm sure you'll let know.
Necklace is 30.5" (77.47cm) long and weighs 33.4 grams.
The matching earrings were actually the most challenging to make, engineering-wise, as two strands had to be long enough to still make a curve gracefully when they were pulled into the cones, and every bead is a slightly different shape, so getting all the strands to be of near-identical length was tricky. But I persisted, and though I'd never made a pair of earrings of this kind before, voila.
The earrings are, measuring from top of ear wire, 2.75" (69.85mm) long and about 3/4" (19mm) at widest. Despite being metal and stone, they weigh very little: 4.4 grams. Enjoy.
I have much Native American turquoise in unlisted inventory. Msg. me if interested.
SET: Artisan Southwestern-Style Howlite & Sleeping Beauty Turquoise Necklace, Matching Earrings