March 21, 2018

Mosaic Jewelry, Kewa Style

By LaRita Chapman

Travel through New Mexico, and it’s easy to see why this state’s motto is the “Land of Enchantment.” Like many regions in the Southwest, it’s varied terrain and landscapes fascinate and beg for exploration, be it hiking, birding, fishing, or artistic rejuvenation and retreat. For jewelry lovers of Southwest style, this land is home to some of the most traditional and innovative creations on the market today. Located just 25 miles southwest of Santa Fe, in the heart of the traditional Pueblo world, lies the Kewa, or  Santo Domingo Pueblo, one of the largest traditional Pueblos on the Rio Grande River, and center for mosaic inlay and heishi jewelry.

In Kewa, traditional use of turquoise dates back thousands of years. This pueblo is near the original Cerrillos turquoise mines, and the backroads along ancient, traditional trading routes is now the popular Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway. From this area comes a distinguished history of trade in shell jewelry.  

Ancient inlaid motifs found in precious artifacts removed from Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde are reflected and honored today in the ever-expanding designs and innovative use of mosaic inlays and shell beads. Various shades of turquoise, apple coral, jade, gaspeite, jet, purple and orange spiny oyster and other multi-colored stones find their way into mosaic works of wearable art. Tiny hand-crafted heishi (the Kewa word for shell) beads of various stones are painstakingly matched and strung into fine contemporary necklaces. The laborious process of snipping material into tiny squares, drilling center holes, stringing, and finally smoothing against a sanding wheel or by hand, sets Kewa jewelry apart from other Southwest jewelry.

At Raven Makes Gallery, we have two outstanding artists in this craft; Warren Nieto and Mary Tafoya.  Visitors to our gallery are amazed at the detail, creativity and color from these special jewelers from a truly enchanted place of beauty on the Rio Grande.