New Tribal Items: A Note About Tribal Jewelry

TRIBAL: This word, and its varied meanings, covers the entire world today. One of its meanings goes back many thousands of years. Beads are said to be the first artistic form man ever created, often by carving agate, serpentine and carnelian stones, or whatever petty stones they could find, always taking advantage of natural patterns and shapes in the stones. They are with us today in collections and still occasionally found at dig sites.

TRIBAL can mean artifacts found, created and worn by the various groups of humanity we call tribes. These artifacts can be made of stone, clay, lava rock, amber, shell, bone and whatever material was indigenous to the area where they lived. Later, with the coming of metals , bronze, copper, silver, tin, and all their alloys and embellishments, all these possibilities added to their remarkable skills and artistic achievements.

TRIBAL can also mean TRADE beads, the beautiful and colorful Venetian glass beads that were later sought after by the tribal people in exchange for gold and other treasures European royalty and traders valued.

Traded artifacts of any kind were worn, prized, traded to other tribes and often require soap and water and a good polishing when they come into the collections of modern man. But they are always prized, even when they show wear. They just tell a fascinating story and it is our pleasure to listen.

Spondylus Shell Jewelry (Spiny Oyster)

I am always amazed at how extensively the native tribes travelled great distances back in the day. They fought over the use of the best land and resources to support their people but they knew they could never “own” the land, as we think of owning it today. They travelled for trade, warred for better food sources and valuable captives to replenish their numbers or trade to other tribes, and sometimes traveled just to visit friends and relatives.

In particular, they prized the richly colored spondylus shell that could only be found off of Baja California, Mexico, Central and South America, especially Ecuador, whose sailors travelled far and wide in balsa wood vessels as early as 3000 BC.

These shells were one of the most important sacred items of all time and were sought largely by Ecuadorian, Andean and Peruvian Chiefdoms. These shells represented fertility and other sacred symbols. They were carved into human and animal fetish figures that were believed to ward off evil and bring good luck. Life was hard and good luck always important!

Today we call this beautiful and much sought after orange, red and purple Spondylus shell in all its primitive beauty, Spiny Oyster, and I love to use it whenever I can in my jewelry.