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.