Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace – What is its history and meaning?

Many queries from you relate to a squash blossom necklace. Just search that term in the right hand column of this blog and you’ll see the number of posts related to SBNs !!  One reader asked ” What makes it a squash blossom necklace and why are there so many of them?”

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.

Miniature Squash Blossom Necklace by Lorena Peina, Zuni

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.

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19 thoughts on “Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace – What is its history and meaning?

  1. I have a double squash. With RCHEE hallmark a arrow below it with 3 feathers. Any help identifying this would sure help.

  2. Thank you for the information. I am the trustee of a neighbor who died, she left a beautiful SBN that I need to sell for the estate. What is the best way to go about this. She had the necklace about 50 years and the originel price on the back is $375.00. One of the petal is marked, though I cannot read it, it looks to be a design, I figure it is the signature. I would appreciate any help you can send my way.

  3. A good place (if you have a discerning eye) to price and even buy Squash Blossom Necklaces is eBay. Of course there are a plethora of “Turquoise thats really ground howlite, and not I’ve seen purple and orange ‘turquoise” but the biggest thing to beware of is the fake silver, called ‘coin silver’ or “Tibetian Silver”..the online buyer has to be aware that there is no actual silver in either of these ‘silver’ products. Tibetian silver is the real deceiver….it looks like it has a real patina and usually the turquoise (howlite) has had a great spiderwebbing made. Remember each of these ovals come out of a machine and are hot glue gunned to the fake silver..for a cost of about 10 cents US. The best ways to tell are (A) Appearance..It just looks cheezy, the ‘silver’ is lightweight and the turquoise feels wrong, it very smooth without any appearance of natural turquoise.
    (B) cost. An actual large bracelet with hand stamping and turquoise and coral stones can run $150.00 and up. The Faux jewelry goes for $5-6 dollars. If you want costume jewelry, its the thing to buy-or if you are traveling and don’t want to take your $1500.00 Squash Blossom necklace, you can buy an inexpensive one for $20.00 online. I also replace my real silver rings with Tibetian silver when I travel. I like jewelry but don’t want to lose it to a thief.

    The honest eBayer will tell you what her jewelry is made out of.. Don’t use Tarnex to clean Turquoise silver jewelry-the turquoise may be glued in and the Tarnex can easily melt the clue. Besides it’s an awful chemical.

  4. Pingback: The 1970s Native American Jewelry Boom | Native American Jewelry Tips

  5. I am looking for a SMALL squash blossom necklace or choker, ideally WITHOUT the large naja central pendant. I am also interested in matching earrings

  6. Paula,

    I have a bracelet that I need translation on the story. It is a Tom and Sue Kee. Please email me back and I will send you a picture.

  7. My mother passed away and left 3 of these necklaces to be given to each of her daughters. I was told a story today about this type of necklace and I was wondering if it were true. These are apparently passed down to each generation. I was told that the sides of the necklace portrayed how many children were in the family and the main piece is the chief of the family, also that when the necklace was closed it completed the family circle. Is this true? My mother was a 1/4 cherokee.

  8. Pingback: What is this green necklace worth? | Native American Jewelry Tips

  9. Pingback: Navajo Squash Blossom Necklace | Native American Encyclopedia

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