May Flowers – the Squash Blossom

Hello, gem gals! We’re continuing our jewelry trip exploring flowers for the month of May. Before I did this post, I couldn’t have told you what a squash blossom was, let alone identified a necklace! But I have learned some fascinating things recently, so of course I wanted to share them with you. Apparently, the squash blossom necklace is quite common in Native American jewelry. And if you spend any time in the Southwest, you’re sure to come across several of them. The story of the necklace is a fascinating one! Lots of cultural influences and symbols coming together. Plus, on a personal note, I now have a niece and nephew who are Native American! Which just gives me another reason to highlight this beautiful jewelry!

<img class=" wp-image-2828 lazyload" src="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-18-13.04.05.jpg" alt="A silver example of a squash blossom necklace, from the Maryhill Museum, in Goldendale, WA" width="375" height="500" srcset="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-18-13.04.05.jpg 810w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-18-13.04.05-225x300.jpg 225w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-18-13.04.05-768x1024.jpg 768w" sizes="(max-width: 375px) 100vw, 375px" /> A silver example of a squash blossom necklace, from the Maryhill Museum, in Goldendale, WA


Let’s get started!

The Naja

The centerpiece of any squash blossom necklace is the naja. The naja is the open circle, or inverted crescent. You see it as the pendant part of all squash blossom necklaces. The naja is an ancient symbol that could have a blog post of its own, so I won’t dwell on it here. And when I say ancient, I mean it goes back to the Stone Age! Suffice to say, necklaces with just a naja are their own thing. Completely separate from the squash blossom necklace, which includes the naja.

<img class=" wp-image-3208 lazyload" src="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaNecklaces.jpg" alt="Naja necklaces from www.sundancecatalog.com" width="366" height="549" srcset="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaNecklaces.jpg 720w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaNecklaces-200x300.jpg 200w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaNecklaces-768x1152.jpg 768w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaNecklaces-683x1024.jpg 683w" sizes="(max-width: 366px) 100vw, 366px" /> Naja necklaces from www.sundancecatalog.com


It’s hard to know where the influence of the naja came from. In this time period of colonization, the Spanish were very busy trying to conquer the New World. And wherever they went, they rode on horseback. And every horse had the naja as a bridle ornament. They thought it protected them from “the evil eye.”

<img class=" wp-image-4321 lazyload" src="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaBridles-1.jpg" alt="Two examples of horse bridle ornaments featuring the naja" width="500" height="333" srcset="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaBridles-1.jpg 1200w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaBridles-1-300x200.jpg 300w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaBridles-1-768x512.jpg 768w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaBridles-1-1024x683.jpg 1024w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/NajaBridles-1-1080x720.jpg 1080w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> Two examples of horse bridle ornaments featuring the naja


This was a practice they had picked up from their centuries-long relationship with the Moors. So perhaps that’s where it came from. It’s also speculated that the naja influence came from trade. At this point in time, the tribes of the Southwest were increasing trade with other tribes on the Plains (like the Shawnee, Comanche, Lakota, Cheyenne, etc.) and theywere also using the naja. So no matter where the naja came from, it’s a defining feature of the squash blossom necklace.

Pomegranate or squash blossom

The beads are the other big part of the squash blossom necklace. There is some disagreement about what the beads represent. When we first start to see these necklaces, the beads are very circular. It’s only as years go by that they become elongated.

It’s thought that the first necklaces used the pomegranate as their influence. The pomegranate is another important symbol brought over by the Spanish. It’s on the official Spanish coat of arms, and all Spanish soldiers had a big red pomegranate on their uniforms. In colonial times, the influence of the pomegranate was widespread in the Southwest, decorating many churches though art and architecture, and showing up in plenty of everyday household items like textiles, ceramics, silver, and pottery.


<img class=" wp-image-4318 lazyload" src="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Pomengranates-1.jpg" alt="Pomengranates! The real deal (top), a silk brocade (L), and some pottery (R)." width="500" height="666" srcset="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Pomengranates-1.jpg 600w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Pomengranates-1-225x300.jpg 225w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> Pomengranates! The real deal (top), a silk brocade (L), and some pottery (R).


As early as the 1500’s, there are records of the pomegranate growing well in America. Spanish missionaries brought seeds with them, and there are still trees flourishing in Arizona, California, and Texas. But the pomegranate isn’t native to North America. Over the years, the beads become longer and longer and the squash blossom, an edible flower that’s indigenous here in America, became the new reference point.

<img class=" wp-image-4319 lazyload" src="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/ExampleSquashBlossoms-1.jpg" alt="Showing off the lovely squash blossom" width="500" height="500" srcset="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/ExampleSquashBlossoms-1.jpg 800w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/ExampleSquashBlossoms-1-150x150.jpg 150w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/ExampleSquashBlossoms-1-300x300.jpg 300w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/ExampleSquashBlossoms-1-768x768.jpg 768w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> Showing off the lovely squash blossom


Silversmithing begins

Most squash blossom necklaces are silver. In fact, many Native American tribes are known for their skill in silversmithing. The tribes of the Southwest were introduced to silver items from their trading with the tribes who lived farther east. In the 1820’s, several tribes of the Plains did metalwork techniques like cutting, stamping and cold hammering.

In the 1850 – 1880 period, several Southwest tribes (Navajo, Zuni, Hopi) learned silversmithing from the Mexicans, and from each other. At first, they made jewelry for themselves or other tribal members. But after 1900, they started to see a commercial market for their talents. The railroad was bringing in lots of tourists to the Southwest, and they were eager for Native American jewelry.

Silversmithing as a profession

It’s a huge understatement to say that the Native American way of life changed dramatically in the mid-1800’s. Several tribes were deprived of their ability to live their life as they had before. The fact that they could learn a trade, produce things that people wanted to buy, and hence make an income, was important. Critical to their very survival. So silversmithing became looked upon as something prestigious, because it allowed freedom, to a certain extent.

<img class="wp-image-4316 lazyload" src="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-19-15.15.54-1-e1531404724501.jpg" alt="I found this squash blossom necklace at a second hand store in Eugene, OR. Pretty and unexpected!" width="508" height="678" srcset="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-19-15.15.54-1-e1531404724501.jpg 810w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-19-15.15.54-1-e1531404724501-225x300.jpg 225w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-19-15.15.54-1-e1531404724501-768x1024.jpg 768w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/2018-05-19-15.15.54-1-e1531404724501-1080x1440.jpg 1080w" sizes="(max-width: 508px) 100vw, 508px" /> I found this squash blossom necklace at a second hand store in Eugene, OR. Pretty and unexpected!


The importance of turquoise

I have seen lots of examples of squash bloom necklaces, and many use turquoise. It’s not a requirement, but the turquoise stone is very meaningful. Turquoise is sacred to many Native American tribes. It represents Mother Earth, the water, and the sky. Different tribes have different beliefs about the value of turquoise. Some prefer turquoise with lots of matrix (matrix is the black veining you see), they feel like it makes the turquoise stronger.

<img class="size-full wp-image-4313 lazyload" src="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/TurquoiseSB-1.jpg" alt="Turquoise squash blossom necklaces (images courtesy of www.durangosilver.com)" width="1200" height="800" srcset="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/TurquoiseSB-1.jpg 1200w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/TurquoiseSB-1-300x200.jpg 300w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/TurquoiseSB-1-768x512.jpg 768w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/TurquoiseSB-1-1024x683.jpg 1024w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/TurquoiseSB-1-1080x720.jpg 1080w" sizes="(max-width: 1200px) 100vw, 1200px" /> Turquoise squash blossom necklaces (images courtesy of www.durangosilver.com)


Apparently, the squash blossom necklace reached the height of its popularity in the 1970’s with the turquoise craze. But don’t be alarmed! You can certainly find the necklaces on the market, and there’s a great variety.

<img class=" wp-image-4314 lazyload" src="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/SquashBlossomMiami-1.jpg" alt="An absolutely amazing example of a squash blossom necklace I found in Miami earlier this year. The naja component is larger than my hand! And the gold is just beautiful!" width="509" height="679" srcset="https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/SquashBlossomMiami-1.jpg 600w, https://valthegemgal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/SquashBlossomMiami-1-225x300.jpg 225w" sizes="(max-width: 509px) 100vw, 509px" /> An absolutely amazing example of a squash blossom necklace I found in Miami earlier this year. The naja component is larger than my hand! And the gold is just beautiful!


Current designs

I don’t own a squash blossom necklace myself. Not yet anyway. But I am determined to find one on my next trip to the Southwest. Or course, if you don’t want to venture farther than your computer screen, Amazon has you covered (side note: I feel really conflicted about Amazon offering squash blossom necklaces…..):

[easyazon_infoblock align=”center” cart=”n” identifier=”B014TZ74PA” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”vathgega-20″]

Or if you are enamored with just the naja….

[easyazon_infoblock align=”center” cart=”n” identifier=”B01MT85IAH” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”vathgega-20″]

Be sure to check out my Pinterest board where I showcase all the flowers I’ve talked about this month!

#flowers #history #nativeamerican #spain

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