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.
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.
This is one piece of Native American jewelry my parents purchased from a dealer friend in Tampa back in the early 70s. I’ve been searching for days online and can’t find one just like this. I did find out that the marking on the back N.TSO indicates it was made by Nellie Tso, but can’t find out anything about her.
I think it was made for a woman, but could be unisex. It’s 25″ in length (including the traditional clasp). The naja is 2-1/2″ wide and 2-10/16″ long. The blossoms, which I think may be sunflowers and are the unusual part of the necklace, are 1-1/2″ long and are attached to double bead strands. The weight is about 320g.
If you have seen one like this or know anything about the artist. Thanks for any help. Marta C.
That is a unique and heavy sandcast……… squash blossom necklace ! I like it – it has a very pretty and unique design. It is hard for me to tell definitely from the photo but it seems to me that those are meant to be squash blossom flowers – if you have ever had a garden, you know what I mean – they are round and look like that.
Here is an example from our pawn shop of that type of squash blossom flower. But note, the example I am providing below is not sandcast like your necklace is – but the flowers are very similar, aren’t they?
Again, a guess from the photo – perhaps the pieces that project from the flowers are intended to be corn plants with corn leaves on each side. It looks like there is some texturing like kernels of corn. Is that so?
Corn, squash and beans are the traditional mainstays of the southwestern diet, culture and symbolism are are used in many ways in art and ceremony.
Nellie Tso, a Navajo, was a silversmith for the Atkinson Trading Company around 1980. She specialized in sand cast watchbands. The hallmark you describe is one of four ways she has used to sign her work.
I hope this has been helpful. Enjoy your beautiful necklace !
I have a really unusual squash blossom necklace. I’ve owned it for over 40 years and was told then that the pale turquoise came from a Colorado mine. the metal is pewter. the crown has 5 stones. the stems the stones are out of the beads.
I’ve reached a point a have to sell my jewelry so need help identifying the pieces.
Thank you. Ellie
I’m going to illustrate our conversation with some examples of Vintage Squash Blossom necklaces that are in our Pawn Shop (such as the one above, for example) so as to preserve the privacy of your piece as we chat about it.
I’ve received the photos of your necklace that you sent and I shared them with 3 of my colleagues who have been in the Native American Jewelry business for over 150 years collectively !!
We’ve never heard of a Native American squash blossom necklace made from pewter.
Do you have any recollection as to the name of the mine in Colorado the stones are from?
Are there any cracks in the stones?
What do you want for the necklace? Paula
Best of luck, Paula
Thank you Paula,
Thank you very much for your input. Your sites have also been very useful. – they are very nice sites. Peaceful photographs are much appreciated.
The Naja has its origin with the Moors in Spain. It is a good luck charm to ward off the evil eye. It was often used on the browband of Moorish Horses. It is thought that it was handed down from the Spanish Moors to Mexico and then to the Navajo Indians. The sterling silver naja pendant shown at above was made by Navajo artist Francis Begay.
The naja is the base of many ornate squash blossom necklaces.