One of the most iconic pieces of native American jewelry is the squash blossom necklace and we are obsessed with them.
Whether worn with a t-shirt or an all-black ensemble, it is really one of the most wearable statement pieces. Throughout the 20th century, celebrities and artists favoured Squash Blossoms, from Brigitte Bardot to Cher, artist Georgia O’Keeffe to musician John Mayer.
With a history spanning over 100 years, squash blossom necklaces are instantly recognizable but few know their full story as one of the most iconic expressions of Native American decorative art.
At top, a 1904 portrait by E.S. Curtis of a Navajo woman wearing a Squash Blossom necklace. Below, a very rare and stunning example which sold at auction for $10,000.
The necklace is distinguished by rows of silver beads which are punctuated by silver “flower” buds–the squash blossom–on the verge of blooming.
It was the Navajo Indians who first implemented the squash blossom flower after seeing a similar theme in Spanish-American artwork and iconography.
At the bottom of the necklace is the “Naja” or crescent symbol. The Naja was created as a symbolic talisman meant to drive away evil spirits, but some have interpreted it as a “womb”–the origin of life. It’s been said that if a Naja features a piece of turquoise suspended from the center, that it is symbolic of the child in the womb.
At top, John Mayer wears a Squash Blossom for the cover of his Paradise Valley album. Below, a vintage sterling and Turquoise necklace by Annie Eagle.
Most squash blossom necklaces are made of silver and feature ample use of turquoise, but there are also many that
use coral or fire agate. The kinds of stones used often indicate the particular power the designer felt the necklace should have. In cultures around the world, coral is believed to have protective powers and has historically been worn by pregnant women or pinned to baby’s jumpers. It is considered one of the most healing of natural stones.
Similarly, fire agate also offers protection and healing but it also symbolizes spiritual awakening, and the courage to find one’s destiny.
Today at auction, a superior quality silver and turquoise squash blossom can fetch up to $10,000 and even relatively plain ones can go for $5,000. Those that are signed by noted Navajo craftspeople or made prior to 1900 are especially sought after.