The Squash Blossom Necklace and It’s Roots
A squash blossom necklace is a beautiful piece of Native American jewelry typically from the Navajo tribes. The necklace’s design is a symbol of acculturation. The necklace has its roots in concepts that come from old Spanish and Moorish symbols. With these influences, the Navajo created a style unique to their culture.
The piece is usually a string of beads, occasionally two. Intertwined with little silver beads are squash blossoms: a bead – usually silver – with a silver flower-like blossom attached to it. The necklace usually has 5 – 7 of these on either side.
In some newer designs the classic, ancient design is used; but, at times, the blossom is only in concept. The title “squash blossom” refers to the similarity of the bead to a real blossom of a squash. You may have to be the judge of whether it really does. This name indicates a Navajo belief. But the style’s depiction can be attributed to a pomegranate of the East by the people of Spain. The Navajo pieces were set apart by these little differences.
The Naja and The Crescent
The main piece of the necklace is named the Naja. ‘Naja’ in the language of the Navajo is translated to: “crescent shape” or “curve.”
The Naja style is taken from Muslim backgrounds, who, in turn, influenced the Spanish; who used the Crescent to adorn their riding gear for their horses with the jewels. The Navajo silversmiths, in turn, were influenced by the design.
In ascribing the origin of the Navajo style, John Adair, renowned anthropologist, states: “This emblem was old when Columbus crossed the ocean to the new world. It was wide spread from Africa to Serbia. In short, it was an Old World amulet fastened to horse trappings, preferably the bridle, to ward off the evil eye from the animal. These crescent shaped amulets were made of two boars tusks joined together or fashioned out of brass, iron, silver, gold, or bronze. The Romans had them, so did the Moors. The bridle trappings of the conquistadors no doubt carried these same traditional ornaments.”
With these joined views, the Naja and the squash blossom, the necklace as we see it today formed.
Early Design Evolution
From early archived pictures there are stages of design.
In the early stages of the piece, the half circle shaped Naja is often used as a center piece, on a string of thin beads made of silver. In these old pictures, there’s no pendant. From the row of silver beads, the Navajo put other styles into the pieces. The Navajo would often use coins to adorn the sides of the beads. At times, crosses would bejewel the sides of the pieces. With the coins and crosses, the squash blossom bead was put into the design, causing the whole necklace to be a Navajo icon – full Native American tradition.
This emblem was old when Columbus crossed the ocean to the new world. It was wide spread from Africa to Serbia. In short, it was an Old World amulet fastened to horse trappings, preferably the bridle, to ward off the evil eye from the animal. These crescent shaped amulets were made of two boars tusks joined together or fashioned out of brass, iron, silver, gold, or bronze. The Romans had them, so did the Moors. The bridle trappings of the conquistadors no doubt carried these same traditional ornaments.
In the first days of Navajo silversmiths, turquoise was not often used. The beautiful blue stone was perhaps just too precious for frail silver mounts. As turquoise became more popular and as metal working technology improved, the Navajo quickly began the use of turquoise into the design of the Squash Blossom necklace. The necklaces may have one piece of turquoise, or it may have hundreds. However, the necklace became a symbol for the Navajo with only one piece in the center.
This design was put on a two-cent postage stamp in the year of 2004.
There are lots of men and women in modern times who still create these beautiful, pieces used in Navajo traditions. Among these are Byron K McCurtain in Oklahoma and Hyson Craig. Even though the style is put into the reputations of many renowned smithies, there are many newer, more modern versions of the design.
Nowadays, there are many smithies who don’t use the traditional materials, but instead use lapis, malachite, and use gold beads in the stead of silver.
And while there are artists who make traditional pieces, and some more contemporary, there are a few who mix both styles into their own.
So, as you can see, the squash blossom necklace is shrouded in ancient mystique. The inverted crescent has represented power and fertility to ancient cultures from the Phoenician, Greeks, and Romans, Moors, Spaniards to the Navajo tribes of North America. Now, you can harness the power of the Squash Blossom Necklace for you. These dazzling pieces are available for purchase in our Jewelry Shop.