Dentalium shell earrings
Dentalium earrings are a must have accessory in Indian Country. These classic earrings consist of three tiers of white dentalium shells contrasted with black leather, silver plated brass beads and sterling silver chains. These dramatic earrings are handmade by Mikayla Patton of the Oglala Lakota Nation.
Among Plains Indians, dentalium shells have traditionally been associated with wealth and embellished women’s capes, yokes of dresses, hair ornaments, necklaces, and long, dangling earrings.
These earrings measure 16cm in overall length including the sterling silver ear wires.
Mikayla is a recent graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As well as a making exquisite jewellery, Mikayla Patton is a talented artist / printmaker whose work was featured in The Young Americans exhibition at Rainmaker Gallery, spring 2019.
The word dentalium, as commonly used by Native American artists and anthropologists, refers to tooth shells or tusk shells used in indigenous jewelry, adornment, and commerce in western Canada and the United States. These tusk shells are a kind of seashell, specifically the shells of scaphopod mollusks. The name “dentalium” is based on the scientific name for the genus Dentalium, but because the taxonomy has changed over time, not all of the species used are still placed in that genus; however, all of the species are certainly in the family Dentaliidae.