Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bear Claw Necklaces

I have a very good customer.  She buys my jewelry regularly for herself and gift giving.  Because she is a good customer I do repair and restringing orders for her.

With her latest request, she handed me three reclosable baggies and ask me to use the beads in each to create three necklaces, one for each of her grown sons.  Not only was there a bear claw(s) in each one, but the closures still clinging to the original wire. She is a widow of what I came to find out was a very 'colorful' character.  He loved horses and obviously enjoyed purchasing and wearing Native American jewelry (he was of Italian descent.)

Necklace #1 Focal, before cleanup

 I was quite surprised and humbled by her latest request.  Reason one, if you have seen my Etsy elsielight shop (http://www.etsy.com/shop/elsielight?ref=si_shop), you know I have touched on using turquoise in my bead weaving and done a little southwestern style jewelry.  But masculine it is not.  Reason two, I feel that with this jewelry I should be as authentic in my re-creations as possible - I have an appreciation for but no practical experience with Native American jewelry.

Heishe beads and closure for Necklace #3
One of the necklaces, necklace #2, required the purchase of new beads.  And I could not figure out what the dark flat cut circles were.  A friend who is of Native American heritage and works with leather and beads, told me they were horn beads.  I spent a very long time on the internet before finding horn beads that looked like them.  These 'heishe' beads must be a style of beads because I found coconut heishi beads that looked very similar, but when I saw the buffalo horn heishe beads I knew I had found a match.  Only one website sold them in this form that I could find and I bought the two strands they had left.  A very satisfying search, because it ended successfully!

Necklace #2 two bear claws
This same friend told me you never put two separated bear claws on the same necklace.  But that had been the order for Necklace #2 so I decided to do it anyway - a great decision, because the whole 'authentic recreation' had stopped my forward motion on this project.  I decided to use my instincts and believe my client's faith was well placed in giving me the project!!  Finding the right separator between the two claws has been a challenge.  One silver diamond I found became too much of a focal and drew attention away from the bear claws.  Another 1 1/2 inch long dark polished horn bead made too much of a rope swing look.  So I settled on an oval carved horn bead.  I was concerned about its lack of curve so I tried it on my model (my husband) and it looks great when worn. 

They are not complete but they're ready for the final touches.  I still have a few beads left from the originals so will perhaps rework to get them in.  It would be a shame if they could not all be included for these keepsake necklaces. 

Necklace #1

Necklace #2

Necklace #3 - still on the board!


  1. Quite the challenge. I recently restored a Navajo squash blossom necklace for a customer. Really beautiful piece. So interesting to work with these types of projects.

  2. What an interesting project - Thanks for sharing it.

  3. My son just had a blue and gold banquet with his cub scout troop. They had a guy on native dress,and brought crafts to show them. This reminds me of his crafts he created. You did a great job!

  4. Thank you for the kind comments. The Castteam Wednesday Blog is a great place and I was a little concerned about the interest level in this type of project and pressing your patience to look at it. I'm glad you found some connection to it.

    Thanks again!


  5. Wow! Such an interesting and rewarding project. They look great!

  6. Fascinating! What a challenge! Feels wonderful when it is accomplished, doesn't it?

  7. It does, Ann Marie. Thanks so much for looking!

  8. Very cool project! Loved reading your process. I am your newest follower from the PCF Team. Here is my blog http://suziesimaginarium.blogspot.com/