i’m a big fan of jewelry. not necessarily diamonds (although diamonds are good) or shiny things or even bling things. i enjoy a lot of jewelry design and i especially enjoy jewelry with history and tradition behind it.
i use jewelry to mark events or travels, much in the same way C and i purchase artwork from local artists when we travel. (yeah, yeah, that’s all highfalutin’ but i often buy jewelry just to go with an outfit)
let me introduce you to my newest addition: a squash blossom necklace.
i have wanted a squash blossom necklace since i was a kid, (probably since the first time we ever traveled to an indian reservation) and i finally bought one on our recent trip. pretty much all i ever knew about squash blossom necklaces was that they were traditionally made the navajo and hopi and were designed to resemble the flower of a squash plant. well… partially true.
traditionally made by the navajo and hopi, yes, though each with very different styles of work. turns out that the principle part of the necklace (the crescent-shaped part called a naja) was, according to lee anderson on americana.net, something the indians first saw as the iron ornaments on the horse bridles of the spanish conquistadors in the late 1500s and the early 1600s. he goes on to say that, “the necklace we now call the squash blossom probably didn’t originate much before 1880.” he goes on to talk about the beads that extend out from the necklace sides and says that, “it is doubtful that the navajo intended that the bead represent a squash blossom.” some speculate that the shape is borrowed from the spanish depiction of a pomegranate blossom.
well then. i was a little disappointed thinking that the necklace might not be as iconic as i had thought.
but anderson goes on to say that “this particular art object is truly an indian creation”. okay then.
misnomer aside, these necklaces are icons of the southwestern u.s. and have always caught my eye. but, i only wanted to buy one from a reservation and only if i were there in person. (there are mass produced imitations of these necklaces where the turquoise is synthetic, as in plastic)
squash blossom necklaces are in abundance in arizona, all sizes, shapes and colors of stones, and veeeerrrry expensive (multiple thousands) because of the size and weight, the cost of silver, the craftsperson and because every part of the piece is often hand-made.
good news is that pretty much every store that sells newly made jewelry also sells “pawned indian jewelry”. (i was a bothered by the thought of this for a whole lot of reasons: it represents someone else’s misfortune, the person might come back for it, etc. but i was assured that they wait many years before they put the item up for sale)
aside: the other argument against buying “pawn” jewelry is that if you’re buying from a white man dealer it doesn’t support the reservation, but i was buying from the reservation itself.
the stones in mine are similar to ones that might have come from the kingman mine in arizona distinguished by the deep blue color and the black striations. or it might not. (this is an inexact science) what i know is that they are definitely stones because of the weight and irregular shape. from what i’ve read, the necklace probably dates from between 1950 and 1970, is marked sterling silver. there are letters “azzrz” etched into the back of the naja, then “set by” and some initials. all of which might mean nothing. or it might mean something.
i prefer to think that the etchings on the back represent a native american craftsperson who enjoyed working the silver and setting the stones in the necklace and who was thinking that the owner of the necklace would wear it with pride and joy. since i don’t know the date the necklace was made, i prefer to think that it was crafted around when i was born and sat waiting for me to return to the southwest with the man i love to retrieve it.