In the Southwest, the Squash Blossom necklace is recognized as the most significant piece in any collection of handmade Native American jewelry. Despite the world-wide cultural significance of the individual elements of the necklace - the symbol of the Naja being traced back as far as Paleolithic times - there is very little historical documentation regarding the history of the Squash Blossom necklace as it exists today.
The squash blossom necklace is often recognized as being rooted in Southwest jewelry traditions of the Diné people, adopted by the Zuni and Hopi, and is also traditionally found in works by the Plains Tribes.
The inverted crescent shape (naja) can be traced through almost every historical culture around the globe. Not only the Spanish and Moors, but the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, and many of the Plains Tribes have also traditionally used the symbol. From silver headstalls on horse bridles to pendants, and necklaces, the Naja symbol has travelled the world and been incorporated into multiple expressions.
The beads of the Squash Blossom necklace are often said to represent the pomegranate blossom, as this was a common decorative element of the Spanish. The Navajo word for the Squash Blossom bead means ‘bead that spreads out’, but it is not believed to be a reference to the pomegranate blossoms, or to the flowers of squash.
Early on, the beads used were rounded and simple. Sometimes dimes and quarters were used. Today you will find highly collectible pieces made with bench-made hand-turned beads, fluted beads and intricately designed cast beads. There are artisans who work in styles reminiscent of the early styles, using traditional cluster work, vintage coin, and sterling silver beads, while contemporary styles incorporate the Naja, stone and metal to make striking, modern legacy pieces.
Squash Blossom sets and necklaces today are not only made with Sterling Silver, but also gold & mixed metals, and with a variety of high-grade stone, including blue and green turquoise, gaspeite, red coral, white buffalo, spiney oyster and other familiar favorites.