What is a squash blossom necklace?

Squash, corn and beans are important foods for the Native American people of the US southwest. They are often used in a symbolic way in jewelry and ceremonies.

Some say the Navajo squash blossom necklace has a connection to southwestern agriculture, other say the the spread petal design is just that, a design, and that is was only after white man asked, “what is this, what does it mean” did the name squash blossom come to be. Yet others say the Navajo copied a similar Spanish design of the pomegranate – look at the end of the pomegranate below and compare it to the “squash blossom” bead.

The Navajo word for the “squash blossom” bead means “bead that spreads out” so it would seem to me that the original intent was design not squash. But what do I know, I wasn’t around in 1880 when spread beads first appeared.

Whichever is the true account, it seems that originally Navajo silversmiths used simple silver bead necklaces to suspend their naja pendants.

In about 1880, the tri-petal form that we know as a squash blossom bead appeared.  At first,  tri-petal silver beads were simply interspersed with plain beads in a naja necklace. Then stones began to be added to the blossom beads partly to please the maker but mostly to satisfy customer demand.

While usually associated with Navajo silversmiths, squash blossom necklaces are also made and worn by Pueblo and Zuni people.  Zuni necklaces usually feature needlepoint designs.

Although there can be any number of squash blossoms on each side of a necklace, there are often six on each side, making twelve squash blossoms and one central naja.

Full size squash blossom necklaces are often quite large and heavy and most suitable for occasional ceremonial wear.  Smaller, lighter versions are made to be worn as everyday jewelry.

Why are there so many squash blossom necklaces around? Demand. During the Native American jewelry boom of the 1970s, the artists made them as fast as they sold.  They were one of the most popular Native American jewelry purchases of that time.  (info from Native American Jewerly Tips)


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