When it comes to Native American jewellery, we commonly associate beadwork, silver and turquoise as the core components of their pieces.
The Squash Blossom necklace is a statement necklace which is the epitome of the Native American culture. First crafted in the late 1800’s, the necklace comprises of round silver beads interspaced with beads that have flared petals and the central horseshoe-like component, the ‘naja’.
It is believed that the Navajo people were the first to adopt this design sometime in the late 1870’s. Whilst the natives of the Southwest had centuries of experience making jewellery, it wasn’t until they came into contact with the Spanish that they began to incorporate metals into their designs. This likely started when the Navajo came across Spanish soldiers who wore small metal adornments on their uniforms as well as on their horses bridles and saddles. These may have been traded between the two and this is how the natives came to work with metals.
The Squash Blossom is reported to also have been drawn from inspiration thanks to the Spanish which was frequently used in military uniforms but the design also simply represents the blossom of a flowering squash plant which was one of the primary crops that sustained the Native people and is referred to as one of the four sacred plants of the Navajo.
There are three distinct parts to the Squash Blossom necklace; firstly, the round beads. These make up the majority of the necklace and interspace the flared beads which as aforementioned, resemble a flowering squash plant. The final core component is s the ‘Naja’, the horseshoe-like decorations which is suspended from the centre of the chain. ‘Naja’ is the name that the Navajo gave to a symbol which is thought to have originated in the Middle East during ancient times. Like most symbols, it was used as a talisman for protection and often affixed to horses bridles to ward off the evil eye.
In early examples, the Naja’s are strictly silver however this has evolved through the years and more often than not, they are now adorned with turquoise.
Lot 755 in the Jewellery Auction is a handmade Navajo Squash Blossom necklace with accompanying earrings and cuff. This comes complete with original purchase receipt dated 1973, stating the necklace to have turquoise stones mined from the Stormy Mountain Area of Nevada. The mine itself is no longer active making this a highly sought after stone.
This example is an impressive piece which forms an important part of history and is sure to be treasured for generations to come.
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