Vintage Squash Blossom Necklace with Kingman Turquoise Stone
Vintage Squash Blossom Necklace made from sterling silver, this beautiful necklace features a center piece of Kingman turquoise in the naja. The necklace is 28″ long in addition to the naja which is 3″ long by 3″ wide. It was made in the 1960s.
Kingman Turquoise originates in the Mineral Park Mining District near Kingman, Arizona. One of the largest domestic turquoise mines, it is found in a large open pit copper mine in the high desert country. The Kingman Mine district was first mined by Native Americans; it was part of the most extensive prehistoric workings in Arizona.
However, modern production of turquoise dates back to the 1880’s when James Haas rediscovered the area. Natural Kingman Turquoise ranges in color from light to very dark blue and sometimes tints of green. Matrix can range from white, light brown to black and frequently flecked with pyrite and occasionally quartz. The most famous stones from this mine are rounded bright blue nuggets with black matrix. Few turquoise mines produced nuggets, especially of this quality. In its high-grade form it has always been considered among the top quality American turquoise. This high blue color has become a “color standard” in the industry, reflected by the name “Kingman Blue”. However, much of the turquoise from Kingman occurs as seams, masses and veins, rather then in nugget form. Besides the nugget form, the most desirable Kingman turquoise is a deep blue with molybdenum pyrite; also, deep blue with pyrite as well as in a “bird’s eye” pattern with “water web” matrix.
The mine is currently owned & Operated by the Colbaugh family’s company, Colbaugh Processing. While old natural Kingman turquoise is rare, they have recently gone back into older sections of the Kingman mine and are bringing out some new natural Kingman Turquoise. Although there are quantities of this fine natural deep blue turquoise available, the largest percentage of turquoise mined at Kingman is being treated or stabilized. There are several other names for the turquoise coming out of the Kingman mining district: Ithaca Peak, Old Man Mine, Kingman Duval, Courtland, The Wall and Turquoise Mountain, just to mention a few.
History of the Squash Blossom Necklace
“Squash blossom” is a term long been applied to a unique necklace produced by Southwestern Native American Tribes. It was first made by the Navajo and later by the Zuni and Hopi.
The term squash blossom was attached at an early date to the unusual bead, which has a flowering end. The Navajo word “Chil Bitan” means flower-like bead, or more literally translated, “bead which spreads out.”
However, the flower is not believed to be a squash blossom, and really does not resemble one. It is like a young pomegranate. The pomegranate was a symbol ofGranada, Spain, and Spanish and Mexican dandies wore a small silver version of this symbol to decorate their blouses, capes, and trousers.
Navajo Indians may have seen one of these decorations and incorporated it into a plain silver bead necklace. They had already borrowed the Spanish crescent moon and star symbol, which was worn on the horse’s bridle, on the center of the animal’s forehead. Navajo craftsmen simplified this theme, often to a plain crescent; in fact, the Navajo word for this ornament is “nazhahi” – now commonly spelled naja, which means crescent. The naja was first worn with plain silver beads, but later became a part of the distinctive squash blossom necklace.
The squash blossom has been explained in other ways. For example, Mrs. John Wetherill, the wife of an early trader on the Navajo reservation, is said to have contended that this bead was inspired by the tiny flowerets in the center of the common sunflower.
There is a resemblance here, but it is more likely that the young pomegranate, by way of the Spaniards, was the real inspiration for this bead. The term squash blossom will continue to be used as it is so well established.
It is unsure when the squash blossom was first used by the Navajo. On a drawing of a shorter-leafed type, Woodward has the dates 1865-1880, and the dates 1880-1937 for a longer-petaled style. However, when Washington Matthews described Navajo silvercraft in 1881 he makes no mention of this bead type, yet he describes in detail the plain bead and other pieces of this early date. Adair simply notes that the squash blossom “probably did not come into existence until sometime after 1880.”
Early photographs, several dated about 1890, show the squash blossom worn by Navajos. Navajo are the best known, for they have been the most productive of this piece and have maintained a purity of representation which Zunis and Hopis have not observed.
Zuni Indians often expose so little of the flower that it would not appear to be a squash blossom. Hopi Indians have produced relatively few of these necklaces, most of them in the Navajo tradition.
Also, both the Hopis and Zunis have substituted other types of design for the squash blossom so that distinct tribal styles have evolved.