Re: "Hishi"
Re: Thank you so much for your thorough response -- lindabd Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Beadman Post Reply
05/26/2018, 13:05:26

Hello Linda,

You are welcome.

Regarding names and naming strategies—

When I first became acquainted with actual (American Indian) hishi beads in about 1970, the word was routinely spelled "HISHI"—which is phonetic and uncomplicated, and is pronounced as "HEE-shee."

It was not until a later time that I came across the spelling "heishi"—and my response was that this was very silly. It's silly because there is no language strategy or rule that helps you say the name properly (that you actually do get from "hishi" if you understand International Phonetics—which I do.)

If "heishi" were based on Mediterranean (essentially Latin) phonetics, it would be pronounced "HAY-shee." If it were pronounced by a German speaker, it would be "HIGH-shee."

There are some instances of British/English words (more often names) where "ei" is pronounced "ee" (as in "bee"). The name "Sheila" is one example. The problem with English is that there are several different ways to pronounced vowels, and the "right one" is not always apparent. This problem is compounded when we have to deal with diphthongs or two-vowel spellings.

I avoid this whole mess by spelling the word "hishi" and pronouncing it "HEE-shee." Which is what I first learned anyway.

The "subtle differences" are those things we have been discussing, that lead to correct material identification. Otherwise, I'm not sure I understand your question.

Traditionally, hishi beads were shaped (from more-crude basic beads), by being strung and rolled across an abrasive surface. Or between two abrasive surfaces. And this gave the beads a uniform circular outside edge.

Mechanically-made and/or mass-produced beads are not hishi, though they superficially resemble hishi. (I'm thinking of giryama beads from Kenya that were often called "brass hishi" by collectors in the '70s; as well as the use of mass-produced metal washers, or whatever.)

Nevertheless, in the late 1970s, when there was a big fad in collecting "Native American jewelry," hishi beads became very popular, to the degree that factories were set up, where workers cranked-out hishi beads, using electrically powered grinding wheels, for the "American Indian market." Gallop, New México was one such factory location—where the employees making these beads were all Méxicans or Méxican/Americans (but not Indians). So, yes the methods of manufacture in the making of hishi and/or similar beads has changed over time.

Your second photo appears to be clam shell hishi beads from W. Africa.


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