Caribou Amulets

Calling the Caribou Necklace with Mammoth Ivory Beads
‘Calling the Caribou’ Necklace with Mammoth Ivory Beads

I have long been fascinate by the vast caribou herds which cross the northern landscape.  I represent the caribou with a pierced a petroglyph-like image on these 20K gold amulets.

 

Obviously, these are not artifacts, but I choose to imagine a story about them as if they were.  Because the caribou were central to the survival of the natives in the north in ancient times, I believe that the shaman, or person of spiritual power, in the tribe would use their powers to call the caribou to the hunters.  If the shaman had worked in gold, she/he might made amulets such as mine.

I have made a number of these amulets in various sizes. The first ones had a stick figure image of a caribou as shown below.

My First Caribou Amulets
My First Caribou Amulet Necklace (See how the caribou are all headed in one direction, except for one small one who may be a little confused)

Then I saw a photograph of a very old map from the north which had been drawn (I think) on a caribou shoulder blade. On this map was a representation of a pregnant female caribou. I adapted my caribou drawing, inspired by this graceful image.

Caribou Amulets of 20K Gold
Caribou Amulets of 20K Gold

I fabricate the amulets from our 20K placer gold. I often combine the gold amulets with various types of beads in a finished piece. Sometimes I use beads hand-shaped from local mammoth ivory.

caribou-earrings-with-mammoth-ivory2
Caribou Amulet Earrings with Mammoth Ivory Beads

The mammoth ivory is a by-product of placer gold mining, found by Klondike placer miners excavating the gravel to recover gold. The ancient people living in the north also had access to local mammoth ivory, so this material seems fitting.

I also sometimes use antique glass trade beads which were traded into the north.

20K Gold Caribou Amulets combined with Hudson's Bay Trade Beads
20K Gold Caribou Amulets combined with Hudson’s Bay Trade Beads circa 1830’s

These red beads are commonly known called White Hearts; their more formal name is Cornalene d’ Aleppo. They are also know as Hudson’s Bay trade beads because the Hudson’s Bay Company traded them into the north. These beads are quite old, dating from the 1830’s.

Russian Blue Trade Beads with Caribou Amulets
Russian Blue Trade Beads with Caribou Amulet

The blue beads I sometimes use in these pieces are called Russian Blues. The early Russian coastal traders traded them to the natives along the B.C. coast. It seems likely that they would have been traded on into the northern  interior via the then extensive native trade routes. You can also see my handmade 20K gold tube beads in this piece.

I have made necklaces with many amulets, pendant necklaces with single amulets, and various styles of earrings using  this basic amulet design. Since I make everything by hand, no two amulets are ever the same!

I’m always glad to work with clients to design and fabricate jewellery specifically for them. If you would like to discuss a potential project, you can email me at leslie@fortymilegoldworkshop.ca.

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