The squash blossom necklace, is the quintessence southwestern jewelry. For anyone who collects and loves to wear Navajo and Zuni jewelry, this is a highly sought after item. There is a lot of interest in how this particular design evolved.
The arrival of Spanish explorers into the American Southwest brought a new skill and art form to the Navajo Indians. This was the use of silver metal made into objects, called silversmithing. (See our article "The History of Navajo Silversmithing".)
One of the items to which the Navajo silversmiths devoted much skill to is the necklace made of silver beads. These beads are usually spherical and most commonly plain, although sometimes fluted. They are made by punching two disks out of a sheet of silver. These are then wrought into hemispheres. The two are put facing each other to form a sphere and then soldered together.
Bead necklaces are often enriched with beads that have petal-like additions. These beads are called "squash blossoms". In native language they are called the "bead that turns out". No one really knows the origin of the term, but it may have been a mistranslation between English, Spanish and one of the Southwestern Indian languages.
A necklace with beads shaped like this is called a "squash blossom" necklace. Most squash blossoms today have turquoise or other stones set in silver along with the silver beads.
In addition, among the designs that the Navajo adopted is a crescent-shaped object that the Spanish had on their silver horse bridles called a "naja". The Indians have incorporated this design and you will frequently find it hanging from the bottom of most squash blossom necklaces.
This necklace, unique to the American southwest, is a traditional adornment for the Navajo, and has been for many centuries. It has been worn not only by women and little girls, but also by men of status such as medicine men and chiefs.