19th-Century Plains Indians wore hair-pipe breastplates made of bone or shell. The long bone beads were used as a medium of exchange in trading. The finer they were, the more valuable they were. The breastplates were too fragile and expensive to be considered armor, and were instead a symbol of wealth during the economic depression among the Plains Indians.
These necklaces are my modern interpretation of a breastplate. Where hair-pipe or bone beads are normally used, I have replaced them with beads I make from old hymnal pages. The musical paper is a nod to the importance of music in the Cherokee culture, and also refers to the hymns sung along the Trail of Tears. The brightly colored beads and modern materials are a continuation of my endeavor to bring Cherokee and Native American cultures and traditions to present day applications.
Horizontal strung beads were traditionally worn by men. However, these necklaces are not exactly “traditional”, and can be worn by either men or women in today’s fashion.
A woman’s style is distinguished when the beads are strung up and down, rather than across, and cowrie shells hang at the bottom, forming a fringe.