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STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN'S

SQUASH BLOSSOM NECKLACE

 

The Navajo word describing this type of necklace means "bead that spreads out." Although these necklaces appear to have a design that resembles a squash blossom, it is very possible the Navajo copied the design from the pomegranate blossom motif originally worn as silver trouser ornaments by the Spanish and, later, by the Mexicans.

Usually, a squash blossom necklace will have at the lower center a curved, open pendant, called a naja (meaning "crescent"). This motif was borrowed from the Spanish horse headstall or bridle which was adopted from the Moors. It is referred to as the Moorish crescent moon motif. The Moors probably got the design from the Middle East, possibly Mongolia. It was a form used in many early civilizations. The earliest known are solid gold crescent shapes found in stone age graves in Ireland. Whatever the origins of this design, the Navajo had the great ability to combine it with other elements into a beautiful piece of jewelry.

Some squash blossom necklaces are made entirely of silver. Others are a combination of silver and turquoise. Until about 1880 silver necklaces made by the Navajo consisted of plain beads hung with a pendant in naja form. Beads on early necklaces like this one have the largest beads placed on the middle of the strand. Like the pendant, graduation of the beads serves to define the center, both visually and by the weight of the larger, heavier beads. Each bead is made from two pieces of silver. Each half is domed by hammering the piece of silver in a wooden mold with a smooth round punch. Holes are punched in the center of each. The halves are soldered together. The bead is then buffed and polished; then the beads are strung. (The idea for hollow silver beads may have come from two button halves soldered together. The idea of buttons would have come from Spanish clothing decoration.) A simple strand of beads, graduated or not, suggests a rhythmic progression. Navajo song has been described as making creative use of repetition by introducing subtle patterns of alternation and progression. The evolved formal arrangement of necklace beads suggests a similar interest in repetition with variation. Similar rhythmic structures exist in music. The same interest in order, stability, and harmony found in this squash blossom necklace can also be found in Navajo music.

Silversmiths began to make what are commonly termed squash blossom beads and to intersperse them after every third or fourth plain bead. The squash blossom (or pomegranate shaped blossom) would have been made separately in three parts: first, the round form, then the petals and then the small shank with a hole punched in it for stringing. These would all be soldered together. Because they were mounted by means of a shank rather than strung directly on the necklace cord, both the bead and the blossom extended beyond the body of the necklace, setting up a more complex visual rhythm.

Stevie's Squash Blossom: I have not yet been able to determine where or when Stevie acquired his squash blossom necklace, but he wore it on stage a number of times during 1983-1987, including at the El Mocambo in Toronto, captured in the live video released by Sony Music. I have been told by a local jeweler that the stones are low grade turquoise. The naja has stamped on the back what appears to be "HVM Mexico .925." 

Where is it now? He gave it to a good friend in Austin who preserved it all these years (thank you Patty). She graciously allowed me to acquire it from her in March 2002. It is NOT for sale. It will be displayed on the fan club tours and at other appropriate events.

Where can I get a similar one? There are numerous places to buy squash blossoms on the internet or at stores in the Southwest. The styles are as numerous as the artists who make them, and prices run anywhere from $200 to $1000.

The historical  information above comes from the Millicent Rogers Museum website.