I believe that the Squash Blossom necklace is one the most beautiful jewelry designs in the history of the world!
How’s that for a strong opinion?
The Navajo, shortly after having been held in captivity during the Civil War, returned to their traditional homeland, surrounded by the Four Sacred Mountains. It was during this time that Navajo silversmithing began.
The Squash Blossom necklace and the Concho belt became two of the most prestigious styles of jewelry to own. A traditional Navajo’s wealth and prestige were based on the amount of jewelry and the number of sheep owned by the family.
The Squash Blossom evolved from silver and leather designs the Spanish wore on their clothing and decorated their saddles with. It was the pattern of a Pomegranate blossom, but we didn’t have Pomegranates in the Southwest, so the design was attributed to the squash.
The Naja, or the horseshoe shaped piece that sits at the bottom of the silver beads came from a Moorish design that was on the front of Spanish headstalls and decorated the foreheads of their horses.
As time went on, silversmiths added turquoise to the necklace and, by the 1960s, it was more common to see stones on a necklace than it was to see a plain silver “Squash.” Navajo smiths generally used stones that were irregular and cut so that they didn’t stand out very high above the silver bezels.
Turquoise had been used in jewelry by many commercial jewelry manufacturers in America for years, including high end businesses like Tiffany and Company. Their primary source of stone was Persia (Iran). While American turquoise tends to have more matrix (rock that runs through the turquoise) the Persian stones are generally more uniform, clear blue in color and cut to have high domes.
Back in the early ‘80s, a friend from New York had a girlfriend who flew as a stewardess on Pan American Airlines. My dad got the idea that she could go to the markets in Tehran, where they generally had a day layover, and buy turquoise for us to use in jewelry. She brought back some pretty stones, but the problem was she couldn’t bring enough to make it worthwhile. Also, she was flying all over the world and didn’t get to Tehran very often. One of the places she flew was Hong Kong, where my Dad convinced her to take one of his business suits and have a couple of suits made for him using it as a pattern. That’s another story, but they came back looking like potato sacks with different length arms and legs. Can’t make this stuff up!
Anyway, we recently received a beautifully made, simply designed Squash Blossom that is set with high domed Persian turquoise from the 1970s. The stones are beautiful matching blue. Whoever got these stones did a lot better than our stewardess! It comes with a matching ring, bracelet and clip earrings (which we are happy to convert to posts). Like many of the pieces of jewelry from that period, the necklace is not signed, but in this case, it is not the artist that is important. The work stands on its own and is a piece of jewelry any woman would be proud to own.
I’ve always said that if you are having dinner in a restaurant and a woman walks in wearing a diamond necklace, she seldom gets a second glance. But when someone walks in with a beautiful Squash Blossom around her neck, everyone notices. If you don’t believe me, give it a try.