My name is Stephanie Medina. I come from the prestigious Santo Domingo Pueblo, where there are beautiful rows of adobe homes and fields of crops along the Rio Grande.
As a young girl, at eight years old, I learned how to make jewelry watching my grandparents, Joe and Eliza Chavez, along with my mother, Rosalie Medina. They sold their jewelry at the famous palace of the governors, under the portal which is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. My mother was a little girl at the time, where she had to sleep under the portal to save her space during the Santa Fe Fiesta.
My grandmother, Eliza, inlaid thunderbird necklaces made out of turquoise that came from the New Mexico mine called Cerrillos. She had to get old car battery casings and put them under fire to melt the oil before she could work with it. She used various materials, such as cafeteria trays and old phonograph records. The trays were red and white in color and the records were used for the backings. My grandmother, Eliza, sold her necklaces for a dollar in the mid 1940’s.
My late grandfather, Joe Chavez, taught me how to string different colors of turquoise, coral, jet, and different sea shells together. He called it the all my children multi-color necklace. He would go selling to the Santa Fe portal with the necklaces that he and my grandmother made.
During my early teenage years, at age 14, my mother, Rosalie, taught me how to cut, drill, grind, sand, polish, and string turquoise necklaces. Her specialty was working with sleeping beauty turquoise and spiny oyster shells with the colors of bright read and orange. She made beautiful necklaces called the triple and double chokers.
When I turned 18 years old, I was sitting at the table with all the different scraps of turquoise and shells I was putting colors that went well tighter and started to inlay the best I could. As time has gone by I have learned to work with more of today’s stones such as the yellow jade, lapis, sugulite, and different shells like mother of pearl, pen shell, melon shell, and different colors of spiny oyster shell.
Later on I started to make lapidary turquoise and jet necklaces to where I would hang pendants on them. The inlay that I make is called mosaic inlay. The earrings and pendants that I make are colorful and unique. They are all one of a kind. In every pair I make, I put my joy and pride into my work.
My grandparents and mother have taught me how our ancestors beautified themselves by wearing turquoise and heishi necklaces during our ceremonial dances which are still going on today. I thank them for giving me the knowledge of how precious and important turquoise and shells are to the Native Americans. It is an honor that I sell my jewelry at the famous palace of the governors under the portal knowing that my family has sold there since the 1940’s.
Santo Domingo Pueblo