Old Pawn Native American Squash Blossom Necklaces

Native American squash blossom necklaces are some of the best known Indian jewelry and are worn by both men and women. The squash blossom was borrowed from Spanish silver ornament, although Europeans knew it as a pomegranate flower. Pomegranate trees are not native to America, so the squash flower was probably the closest correlate in Native experience and, as a critical food crop, its blossom certainly was worthy of being wrought in silver. Zuni smiths eventually applied turquoise to squash blossom necklaces and the Navajo then followed suit as did the Hopi. The crescent-shaped pendant called naja (NAH-zha) is an ancient symbol, used for centuries around the Mediterranean and across Europe. In the 19th century, it was commonly used by both Plains Indians and the Spanish as a bridle ornament that hung on the horse’s forehead. The Navajo, who made silver-mounted bridles by the 1880s, also used it in this manner, but by 1900, it was most commonly associated with the squash blossom necklace.

The earliest Navajo squash blossoms had very little, if any, turquoise. Turquoise probably didn't begin to be put on Native American jewelry until around the 1890s. The Navajo used turquoise usually in the form of nuggets or cabochons. Zuni silversmiths also began creating jewelry with small clusters of turquoise and coral, but that usually appeared more finer textured or daintier. What you want to look for with the earliest antique or old pawn jewelry is that it has very little turquoise, and if turquoise is used, that it has very early bezels. The bezel is what attaches and holds the turquoise stone in place. Look for handmade bezels on early pieces versus something that looks more machined and commercially made. Usage is another very important tool in determining age. You want to see beads that are very smooth that have been actually worn and used. Often Navajo squash blossoms have old coinage on them and people tend to assume because they have these early coins dating from the 1910s or 1930s that it must be from the same timeframe as the coins are. The reality is that's actually quite rare. Almost all of these Navajo squash blossoms were made in the 1960s and maybe 50s, and are a reproduction of an earlier type. So, just because you have a Navajo squash that has early coinage on it does not mean that it's early - it just means the coins are - and that's a very important dating factor to be aware of.

Early Navajo squash blossoms necklaces before 1900 can be very valuable if you can find one, especially if it's attributed to somebody like Slender Maker of Silver, who has a very distinctive style of Navajo squash. These can easily top $8,000 for a turn of the century ingot piece While squash blossoms may have been worn in the southwest since the 1890s, their heyday was the late 1960s and early 1970s during the hippie era of free love, the Doors and of course, squash blossom necklaces and paisley shirts. The good news for today’s collectors is the prices for many of the 1960s pieces are much less in today’s dollars than 50 years ago. The pre-1960s pieces are very collectable. In general price structure for a 1930s squash would be in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.

The jeweler’s hallmark stamped on the back of the piece is the mark of authenticity and symbol of genuineness to look for. Correctly identifying the jeweler by their hallmark is key to determining if its authentic and Medicine Man Gallery publishes a list of Native American Jewelry Hallmarks to help you make this crucial determination.
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