Carved Fossil Face Sterling Silver Alaskan Pendant Necklace
Unique carving of a Eskimo face in fossil. The stone is a perfect match for this carving, with the natural grain looking like a fur hood. It is surrounded by a large sterling silver frame in which a smaller black stone is set above the fossil. This same stone is mimicked in the back clasp that is also set in silver. The pendant is 3.5 in long. The necklace is 18 inch with a knotted rope cord which looks like black hair*. There are three markings on the pendant. Behind the top inset black stone it is marked Sterling. Etched in the sterling is a signature that appears to be I. Wickwirei '80, and the front stone is carved E Mayac**. Very interesting hand made piece.
* The cord is probably made from baleen, something the native Alaskans use in their craft. Baleen is a strong, yet flexible material made out of keratin, a protein that is the same material that makes up our hair and fingernails. It is used by whales to filter their prey from the sea water. Like our fingernails, the baleen grows continuously. The baleen plates are about a quarter-inch apart and are smooth on the outer edge but have a hairy fringe on the inner edge. The fringe on the plates overlaps and creates a mesh-like strainer inside the whale's mouth. The whale uses this strainer to trap its prey while it filters out the sea water.
** The Mayac family is originally from King Island, Alaska. The family is one of the best known ivory carving families in Alaska. Originally from King Island, Alaska, they have gained an international reputation for their carvings. Mayac carvings are widely collected and are found in art museums around the world including the Smithsonian. Most carvings are objects taken from nature, with the occasional mask carvings such as this piece. Today carving material is used from bone and ivory from hunts of long ago, as well as fossil remains from animals which have naturally deceased, including the long extinct mammoth. Much of this material has darkened with age into wondrous striations and color variation, and is more plentiful as climates warm and soil thaws, revealing the long buried treasures beneath.