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#28: Squash Blossom

January 17, 2009

My interest in Native American culture and adornment has been growing exponentially. It’s now safe to assume I’m harboring a “healthy” obsession as planning commences for my next treasure-hunting trip out west this spring.

Below is an extraordinary little piece I picked up recently from a local vintage guru, found in his secret Manhattan outpost (you may have heard of it, a little place called Heaven?) Shown below is the latest acquisition, a squash blossom necklace, which we believe is from the Zuni tribe and likely made sometime between the 1920’s and 40’s.

What’s so special about this piece is its extremely rare and tiny size, originally intended to be worn by an infant. The size being somewhat impractical (although it does sit nicely just at my collar bone), it was most probably made for trade with the “White Man” and not for wear by the native people who wore their adornments over their clothing. I have it shown below juxtaposed to a more standard size squash blossom, if not oversized. The turquoise piece I inherited from my Gram, is of Navajo origin, and was made in the 1960’s or 70’s likely for the tourist trade (the price she paid for it is stamped on the back, and boy did they get her good!)

What’s more about this piece is its use of coral stones rather than the more commonly used turquoise, as coral does not naturally appear in the Americas and can only be obtained through trade. Native trading began with the Spaniards in the late eighteenth century and lasted through the early twentieth.

The squash blossom necklace gets its name from the shape of the side pendants which are said to resemble the flower of a squash or a pumpkin (you be the judge! Some say a pomegranate blossom is more accurate). The center pendant is called a naja, the Navajo word for crescent shaped pendant.

I’ve also picked up a wonderful reference book on the topic by Larry Frank with the assistance of Millard J. Holbrook II, Indian Silver Jewelry of the Southwest 1868-1930, which offers a terrific history on the subject and the beautiful ideas behind the classic pieces.

I’m in awe of this piece (cute little thing, ain’t it?) and needless to say, feel rather honored by its presence in the boudoir.

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