The Dorothy Methvin McClatchey Collection

Squash Blossom Necklace

Squash Blossom Necklace

Southwest United States
1996.33.16
20th Century

Silver and turquoise jewelry have played a significant role in the lives of Native Americans who have inhabited the Southwest United States for generations. Turquoise was used for personal adornment by prehistoric populations in the area from at least the fourth century CE. For most Native American groups in the Southwest (e.g., Pueblo, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo), turquoise has great symbolic value and is often worn as a talisman of good fortune, strength to protect the wearer from harm or illness. Turquoise also plays a crucial role in many creation myths. While turquoise has a lengthy history of use in the Southwest, silver working is a more recent tradition first introduced to the Navajo by Mexican smiths in the mid-1800s. Squash blossom necklaces are perhaps the most common and readily identifiable of all Native American jewelry. This jewelry form is currently made by both Navajo and Zuni lapidaries. While there are some subtle stylistic differences in the necklaces made by different artists, they all contain elongated or flowerlike beads which resemble squash blossoms. These are typically combined with turquoise stones, silver beads and inverted crescent pendants called najas by the Navajo. It is believed that the inverted crescent was borrowed from the Spanish who used this Moorish symbol as headstalls in horse bridles. This particular piece has large, bezel set turquoise and coral stones, fabricated and hand-wrought silver beads and a large naja.