Squash blossom necklaces boast a flourishing market

This circa-1940 sterling silver and turquoise box and bow squash blossom necklace brought $8,000 in November 2023. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — While there is some debate over exactly how squash blossom necklaces got their name, one thing is for certain: they are among the most important forms of Native American jewelry to come out of the American Southwest. Named for the large petal-like stones — typically turquoise — that are set to look like the flowers on a squash plant, these necklaces have three key parts: the gems that comprise the squash blossoms, the smaller round beads surrounding them, and the naja, a horseshoe or crescent-shaped pendant hanging from the bottom.

Much of the appeal of squash blossom necklaces comes from the stones that are used. That definitely was the case with a silver and turquoise squash blossom necklace, likely Navajo in origin, which attained $25,000 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2023 at Alex Cooper Auctioneers. “The turquoise in this necklace is native to the American Southwest region,” said Selden Morgan, director of sales and fine jewelry at Alex Cooper Auctioneers, which has offices in Towson, Maryland and Washington, D.C. “It is exceptional, well matched and rare, a type called spiderweb. The silver is composed of expertly crafted squash blossoms, a traditional bead necklace, fine rope details and naja. It exhibits an exemplary balance between turquoise and traditional silver work.”

A silver and turquoise squash blossom necklace, likely Navajo, attained $25,000 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2023. Image courtesy of Alex Cooper Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers.
A silver and turquoise squash blossom necklace, likely Navajo, attained $25,000 plus the buyer’s premium in July 2023. Image courtesy of Alex Cooper Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers.

Not all turquoise is created equally. It is a rather soft and porous stone that easily chips and cracks, which is why it is often “stabilized” or hardened with other materials, explained Erin Rust, a Native American art specialist at Hindman in Chicago. “However, there is a rather small proportion of turquoise that is considered high-quality gem-grade stones. These stones are harder and more luminous in color,” she said.

A silver squash blossom necklace sporting 12 blossoms, each with a single high-grade spiderweb turquoise stone and offered with a pair of earrings, realized $13,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2019. Image courtesy of Hindman and LiveAuctioneers.
A silver squash blossom necklace sporting 12 blossoms, each with a single high-grade spiderweb turquoise stone and offered with a pair of earrings, realized $13,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2019. Image courtesy of Hindman and LiveAuctioneers.

Some of the best-regarded examples of turquoise emerged from the Lander Blue Mine in Nevada, which was mined briefly in the 1970s and is believed to have only produced roughly 100 pounds of high-grade material. A piece that might include stones from the mine is a silver squash blossom necklace with 12 blossoms, each with a single high-grade spiderweb turquoise stone and offered with a pair of matching earrings, which earned $13,000 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2019 at Hindman.

“The turquoise is what sets this necklace apart. The stones on this particular necklace have similar characteristics to those of the Lander Blue Mine. The high contrast between the dark ‘spiderweb’ matrix and rich turquoise color is very desirable and only found in a few mines,” Rust said. “Without documentation, we cannot say for sure that the stones in this necklace are Lander. However, the necklace is from the correct period of time. The stones are very high quality, with similar characteristics such as the high luster, depth of color, and webbing matrix, which, in the end, is what drove the price.”

A circa-1970 Lander turquoise and silver squash blossom necklace made $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2022. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.
A circa-1970 Lander turquoise and silver squash blossom necklace made $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium in August 2022. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

Collectors pounce on necklaces that feature Lander turquoise, such as a circa-1970 Lander turquoise and silver squash blossom necklace attributed to the Diné (Navajo) people that had about 90 carats of the coveted stone. The necklace made $19,000 plus the buyer’s premium at Santa Fe Art Auction in August 2022.

Generally speaking, the three basic attributes Rust looks for in squash blossom necklaces are:

  • Age – is the piece an early example from the turn of the previous century, or is it modern?
  • Artist – if the piece is a modern example, is it marked or attributed to a specific known artist?
  • Stone quality – if there are stones, are they high-grade, gem-quality stones that are neither stabilized nor dyed?

“Quality craftsmanship and well-matched turquoise are highly desirable aspects of a squash blossom necklace,” Morgan said. “Collectors may also consider the size of the naja, the proportions of the necklace, and whether the piece is signed. One with rare, well-matched turquoise in very good condition with well-defined blossoms would be highly collectible.”

A 19th-century Navajo squash blossom necklace, described as being in ‘excellent condition,’ sold for $2,600 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2024. Image courtesy of New England Auctions – Fred Giampietro and LiveAuctioneers.
A 19th-century Navajo squash blossom necklace, described as being in ‘excellent condition,’ sold for $2,600 plus the buyer’s premium in January 2024. Image courtesy of New England Auctions – Fred Giampietro and LiveAuctioneers.

According to the website for the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in Albuquerque, New Mexico, “The history of the origins of squash blossom necklaces is unclear, but they are believed to have been first made in the late 19th century by Native artists.” The naja centerpiece, which is mostly seen as a fertility symbol or used for protection, may have been a North African design that was assimilated by Spanish settlers moving north from Mexico. This form was then exposed to the Southwest peoples. The pomegranate-like shape of the squash blossom design and the horseshoe shape of the naja are both evocative of Spanish culture, which Native peoples often borrowed and interpreted.

Some also say that by the 1870s, Spanish soldiers may have begun trading these necklaces to the Navajo people. They were the first group of Native Americans to begin crafting squash blossom necklaces, and these observers claim that the necklaces represent a blending of Spanish and Native American cultures. The Zuni and Hopi tribal communities are believed to have adopted the necklace design by the 1890s. According to the museum, the earliest examples of squash blossom necklaces were made from silver collected by melting down Spanish or American coins, but later, sheet metal was used in silversmithing.

This circa-1950 squash blossom necklace by Zuni artist Dan Simplicio features sterling silver and coral accented with turquoise. It went for $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2023. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.
This circa-1950 squash blossom necklace by Zuni artist Dan Simplicio features sterling silver and coral accented with turquoise. It went for $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2023. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

While squash blossom necklaces don’t appear to have had specific ceremonial uses within Native cultures, they seem to have served as status symbols for those who wore them. The more intricate the necklace, the more valued or important the person was.

Those living beyond the Southwest first became interested in squash blossom necklaces in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when railroads brought tourist trade to the region. Demand really kicked off in the 1960s when publications and exhibitions brought Native American crafts to a broader audience, Morgan said. The advent of The Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe and the Scottsdale Show in Arizona, which both supported and held competitions for artists, caused a production surge.

This Navajo silver squash blossom necklace earned $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2022. Image courtesy of Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates and LiveAuctioneers.
This Navajo silver squash blossom necklace earned $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2022. Image courtesy of Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates and LiveAuctioneers.

The appetite for beautiful, thoughtfully designed squash blossom necklaces has yet to abate. A Navajo example with a slightly unusual look made $16,000 plus the buyer’s premium at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in June 2022. Set with 18 blossoms, the silver necklace featured a double-form naja that was closed. Buyers evidently liked this style as this piece performed markedly well.

Another interesting take on this classic form was a circa-1940 sterling silver and turquoise box and bow squash blossom necklace, which brought $8,000 at Santa Fe Art Auction in November 2023. The pair of seven turquoise beads running up the sides of the necklace are shaped like bows.

Although most squash blossom necklaces are made with turquoise, this is not always the case. Native American artists have long been interested in coral, and perhaps the best coral in the world comes from the Mediterranean. Squash blossom necklaces that showcase coral typically do not bring as much money as those with turquoise, but they are still cherished by buyers. A Ray Bennett Mediterranean coral squash blossom necklace sold for $6,500 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2021 at Billy The Kid Auction House.

A Ray Bennett Mediterranean coral squash blossom necklace with matching earrings sold for $6,500 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2021. Image courtesy of Billy The Kid Auction House and LiveAuctioneers.
A Ray Bennett Mediterranean coral squash blossom necklace with matching earrings sold for $6,500 plus the buyer’s premium in November 2021. Image courtesy of Billy The Kid Auction House and LiveAuctioneers.

A snapshot of today’s squash blossom necklace market indicates that it is strong and healthy, especially for vintage examples. “From our experience, buyers are willing to pay increasingly higher prices for quality Native American jewelry. The majority of the jewelry we are seeing come onto the market are pieces purchased decades ago in the Southwest, which have been residing in private collections ever since,” Morgan said. “They are becoming available as people downsize and are ready to give their jewelry a new life with a new owner. These pieces are primarily being sought after by American collectors, though there is international interest as well.”

Rust echoed Morgan’s comments, noting,“The auction market for good, high-quality squash blossoms is holding strong and bringing commanding prices. However, I have noticed that the middle- and lower-market pieces have been a little harder of a sell, bringing less than the past few years.”

Morgan said while there are pieces that go for in excess of $20,000, many more are available at prices better suited to beginning collectors, and added, “It is a great time to get into collecting Native American jewelry and craft. The Navajo excel at metalwork and produce many of the quintessentially regarded squash blossom necklaces, but the Zuni are expert carvers of turquoise and furnished the Navajo with many of the stones used in the squash blossom necklaces, as well as crafting beautiful and seemingly delicate pieces of their own.”

This circa-1940 sterling silver and turquoise box and bow squash blossom necklace brought $8,000 in November 2023. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.
This circa-1940 sterling silver and turquoise box and bow squash blossom necklace brought $8,000 in November 2023. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

Bid Smart: Charles Loloma transformed Native American jewelry

This circa-1975 ironwood cuff bracelet by Charles Loloma achieved $80,000 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2022. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

[av_heading heading=’Charles Loloma transformed Native American jewelry’ tag=’h1′ style=” subheading_active=” show_icon=” icon=’ue800′ font=’entypo-fontello’ size=” av-desktop-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” subheading_size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” icon_size=” av-desktop-font-size-1=” av-medium-font-size-1=” av-small-font-size-1=” av-mini-font-size-1=” color=” custom_font=” subheading_color=” seperator_color=” icon_color=” margin=’,,35px,’ av-desktop-margin=” av-desktop-margin_sync=’true’ av-medium-margin=” av-medium-margin_sync=’true’ av-small-margin=’,,20px,’ av-mini-margin=” av-mini-margin_sync=’true’ headline_padding=” headline_padding_sync=’true’ av-desktop-headline_padding=” av-desktop-headline_padding_sync=’true’ av-medium-headline_padding=” av-medium-headline_padding_sync=’true’ av-small-headline_padding=” av-small-headline_padding_sync=’true’ av-mini-headline_padding=” av-mini-headline_padding_sync=’true’ padding=’10’ av-desktop-padding=” av-medium-padding=” av-small-padding=” av-mini-padding=” icon_padding=’10’ av-desktop-icon_padding=” av-medium-icon_padding=” av-small-icon_padding=” av-mini-icon_padding=” link=” link_target=” title_attr=” id=” custom_class=” template_class=” av_uid=’av-ln0nb1dg’ sc_version=’1.0′ admin_preview_bg=”][/av_heading]

[av_post_metadata post_selected=” seperator=’ | ‘ before_meta_content=’Andrea Valluzzo |’ after_meta_content=” margin=” margin_sync=’true’ padding=’,,35px,’ av-desktop-margin=” av-desktop-margin_sync=’true’ av-desktop-padding=” av-desktop-padding_sync=’true’ av-medium-margin=” av-medium-margin_sync=’true’ av-medium-padding=” av-medium-padding_sync=’true’ av-small-margin=” av-small-margin_sync=’true’ av-small-padding=” av-small-padding_sync=’true’ av-mini-margin=” av-mini-margin_sync=’true’ av-mini-padding=” av-mini-padding_sync=’true’ align=’left’ custom_title=” size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” alb_description=” id=” custom_class=” template_class=” av_uid=’av-lnbsm75v’ sc_version=’1.0′ admin_preview_bg=”]
[av_metadata_item metadata=’published’ before_meta=” after_meta=” link_meta=’default’ link_target=” av_uid=” sc_version=’1.0′]
[av_metadata_item metadata=’categories’ before_meta=’in’ after_meta=” link_meta=’default’ link_target=” av_uid=” sc_version=’1.0′]
[/av_post_metadata]

[av_textblock fold_type=” fold_height=” fold_more=’Read more’ fold_less=’Read less’ fold_text_style=” fold_btn_align=” textblock_styling_align=” textblock_styling=” textblock_styling_gap=” textblock_styling_mobile=” size=” av-desktop-font-size=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” font_color=” color=” fold_overlay_color=” fold_text_color=” fold_btn_color=’theme-color’ fold_btn_bg_color=” fold_btn_font_color=” size-btn-text=” av-desktop-font-size-btn-text=” av-medium-font-size-btn-text=” av-small-font-size-btn-text=” av-mini-font-size-btn-text=” fold_timer=” z_index_fold=” av-desktop-hide=” av-medium-hide=” av-small-hide=” av-mini-hide=” id=” custom_class=” template_class=” av_uid=’av-6j1kbs1′ sc_version=’1.0′]

This circa-1975 ironwood cuff bracelet by Charles Loloma achieved $80,000 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2022. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.
This circa-1975 ironwood cuff bracelet by Charles Loloma achieved $80,000 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2022. Image courtesy of Santa Fe Art Auction and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — More than three decades after his death, Charles Loloma’s transcendent jewelry continues to influence jewelry design and attract new fans. Actor Lily Gladstone wore a Loloma ring set with coral, lapis, sugilite and turquoise on the October 2023 cover of British Vogue that highlights Native American designers.

Continue reading

Charles Loloma designs featured at Hindman’s Native American jewelry sale, July 13

 

Charles Loloma Lander turquoise and 18K gold ring, estimated at $18,000-$22,000. Image courtesy of Hindman
Charles Loloma Lander turquoise and 18K gold ring, estimated at $18,000-$22,000. Image courtesy of Hindman

CINCINNATI – Hindman will present an impressive range of jewelry by early and contemporary master Native American artists in its Thursday, July 13 Native American Jewelry auction. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers. The sale will be anchored by a strong group of Hopi jewelry by internationally renowned designer Charles Loloma (1921-1991). With more than 200 lots, an assortment of Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and Pueblo necklaces, rings, concha belts and earrings crafted by leading designers such as Preston Monongye, Julian Lovato, Lewis Lomay and Denise Wallace are also among sale highlights. Significant collections include John and Doris Curran of Indiana and the Smith collection of Arizona.

Continue reading

Saddle up for Brian Lebel’s Santa Fe Old West Show & Auction, June 23-25

One-of-a-kind pair of Tony Lama ‘El Rey II’ handmade cowboy boots. Custom-ordered from Luskey’s 1966 catalog by a Route 66 service station owner, Ted Jenkins of Vernal, Utah, to display as a roadside tourist attraction. Premium-grade black calf with inlaid gold leaf and 54 carats of diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Estimate $20,000-$30,000. Morphy Auctions image

SANTA FE, N.M. – Buyers, sellers, collectors, and enthusiasts of Western and Native American memorabilia, or anyone who is just discovering this red-hot collecting category, should mark their calendars for June 23-25. Those are the dates for Brian Lebel’s 33rd annual Cody Old West Show & Auction, to be held in the Santa Fe Community Convention Center at 201 West Marcy Street in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The auction is produced in association with Morphy’s, and absentee and Internet live bidding is available through LiveAuctioneers.

Continue reading

Stephenson’s April 21 auction rich with Philadelphia-area estate discoveries

Pair of Sevres-style Paris porcelain urns, mid to late 19th century, 19in high, hand-painted with gilt overlay. Estimate $600-$1,000

SOUTHAMPTON, Pa. – Stephenson’s Auction, the Philadelphia region’s top source for estate-fresh antiques and art since 1962, will host an April 21 Decorative Arts Auction of 455 eclectic lots ranging from a stately Pennsylvania tall-case clock to European porcelain and diamond jewelry. All forms of bidding will available, including live at the gallery, by phone, absentee, or live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.

Continue reading

Native American jewelry trove leads Holabird Aug. 5-9 auction

Rainbow Man knifewing bolo by Myra and Homer Vacit, estimated at $1,200-$1,800
Rainbow Man knifewing bolo by Myra and Homer Vacit, estimated at $1,200-$1,800
Rainbow Man knifewing bolo by Myra and Homer Vacit, estimated at $1,200-$1,800

RENO, Nev. – General George Armstrong Custer’s Civil War holster and gun belt, a photo diary of Pancho Villa with three books on the Mexican Revolution, and an 1898 prostitute’s license and photo from Tombstone, Arizona are a few of the more interesting items in Holabird Western Americana Collections’ Sizzling Summer Western Americana Auction, slated for August 5-9. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

Continue reading