The Grizzly Claw Necklace
The Great Plains grizzly bear has been extinct for over 100 years but when this species was abundant, a grizzly claw necklace was a coveted goal and prized possession. The wearer was regarded as brave and as one who possessed great medicine. The number of claws signified the number of grizzly bears a hunter had confronted. Only the front claws were used so twenty claws meant the wearer had met with at least two grizzlies, no small feat since the grizzly could take a bullet (or two!) and still keep charging. Of course a necklace could also be won in battle, as the reward for killing an enemy who wore it.
The claws would be mounted on a core which was then covered in otter fur. When Plains grizzlies became rare, necklaces were made from Rocky Mountain grizzlies or the claws would be carved from elk antler, a painstaking and exacting process that earned nearly as much respect as trophy claws from a bear killing.
Sold for $42,500, this Z.S. Liang painting was the top-seller at the 2010 National Museum of Wildlife Art’s largest annual fundraiser.