Photos: Making wampum

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BRATTLEBORO — It all starts by finding the right quahog shell. That's what Perley Murray, owner of Walks with Wolves Creations on Elliot Street, says about the process of creating wampum jewelry.

Wampum is a traditional shell bead of the Eastern Woodlands tribes of Native Americans. It includes the white shell beads hand fashioned from the North Atlantic channeled whelk shell and the white and purple beads made from the quahog or Western North Atlantic hard-shelled clam.

Murray said the more purple the jewelry is, the more valuable it becomes.

The process of making jewelry for Murray takes around four days.

"I try to do as much as I can the old way, but nowadays it's Dremel tools," he said. "You have to clean out the shell and you can save the meat, but don't boil the shell because that would lose its purple colors."

"Any cuttings, drillings, or anything that would create dust should be done underwater because it could make a person very sick," said Murray.

After cutting the shape, he said, you should buff it, drill a hole, and turn it into a freeform pendant or earrings.

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