In the Navajo language “squash blossom” bead is “yo ne maze disya gi,” which means simply “bead that spreads out.” The Squash Blossom has become an iconic symbol of Native American jewelry, it is one of the most prized pieces of Native American Jewelry.
I bought my first one at 20 years old just a few months ago this past December. I searched for the right one for a while. I feel that the Squash Blossom will find you, so one day I went into The Western Trading Post in Casa Grande Arizona, my hometown, and there she was. She was dainty, as squashes can be. Also very big and heavy. I knew that I wanted somewhat of a “baby blossom”. I broke into a savings account…with parent’s permission of course. I had money saved from showing stock show goats. I made the purchase, and she was mine. I then headed off to Vegas with her for the National Finals Rodeo. She is a Navajo 1960’s-1970’s Squash Blossom. I know she found me because those are my favorite decades and my style leans towards those influences. I look at her though, and sometimes I wish she could talk. Because I know she has a story. Who owned her before me? Where has she been? Then I decided I wanted to tell more stories than just mine. Everyone who owns a Squash Blossom has a story. So here are five different ones from five different woman and their own unique Squash Blossoms. I’m especially excited to share the story of my Nana Gloria’s Squash Blossom.
First I will introduce you to Marti Cowan Wells. She was born in Albuquerque NM. She was transplanted to Texas where her dad ranched. She grew up with turquoise jewelry. Here’s her story “My grandmother gave me a squash blossom necklace when I was 20. At some point, she acquired quite a large amount of Persian turquoise. The stones are cabochon and exquisite. She then had a Navajo artist named Fred create beautiful jewelry. This was probably in the early 70’s. You cannot buy this quality of turquoise anymore. Unless these stones are smuggled into the US, you can’t purchase it.” She currently has two squash blossoms. “Navajo made, definitely old school, which is what I prefer. I love wearing them when I dress up! They do tend to get a little heavy, but ya have to suck it up! I have worn Squash Blossoms since I was 20. They have NEVER gone out of style in my life. They are timeless.”
Next were going down to Texas to meet Carly Long. “I go by three different names Mom, Honey and Carly. I’m a Texas Coastal Plains rancher, team roper and lover of all things outdoors help me pull myself together stylishly.” Here’s her pretty lucky story. Her Squash found her for sure! “I bought my 1st squash when I was 20. I had craved and desired a Squash Blossom before I even knew what the name of those beautiful turquoise and silver Native American necklaces were called. I can remember seeing my Great Aunt Marjorie wearing hers. I also saw them in movies and knew one day, I was going to have my own. I always thought owning a Squash Blossom was a real sign of success. It was the first piece of real jewelry I knew I wanted to purchase. The year was 1997. EBay was still new and I was a 20 year old college girl cruising the turquoise jewelry section. I ran across a beautiful Squash Blossom necklace vastly underpriced. The seller did not know what they had and simply priced it as they would an old turquoise necklace. I remember checking on my measly $60 bid every spare second I had until the auction was over. I was is ecstatic and could not believe I just scored a Squash Blossom for just $60!” Here’s what makes her Squash special: “To me this necklace was the physical epitome of class, style and everything I desired to become. It felt like I was owning a piece of the women I wanted to become.” She also says “Any time is a good time for a Squash…dinner with the girls, rodeos, weddings or even when you want to just look fabulous at the grocery store.” She hopes this will be an heirloom for generations of her family to come. “I plan to pass it down to my son and hope to bequeath it to his future wife and children. I love the heritage of these pieces and want to pass down a little stylish piece of history.”
Next is a story close to my heart. My Aunt Carrie (more properly known as Carrie Mayfield) will tell you the story of her Squash Blossom. Her Squash Blossom once belonged to my Nana Gloria. Nana is lover of hospitality! She says, “I have a blog called Sweet Flower Home where I share my journey of building a farmhouse that my husband and I run.” Her story begins with my grandpa, “My Dad gave me my mother’s Squash Blossom after she passed away 22 years ago. Gold and diamonds have never been my thing, so when my dad asked me if I would like this piece, I jumped at the opportunity! I have a very special place in my heart for my mother’s Squash Blossom. My mother was initially given the Squash Blossom by her father when she was in high school. My best estimate is that the necklace is between 60 and 65 years old. My grandfather had traveled to northern Arizona and come home with it for my mom. I love to wear my Squash Blossom with another piece of my mother’s jewelry. Her closet was a favorite place to hang out for me. I knew what I always wanted to keep was her beautiful Ralph Lauren Navajo sarape skirt. It is now a vintage piece and I love it! My daughter’s and I have all worn it at one time or another. I always feel that the Squash Blossom fits just right with the Lauren sarape skirt!” Why does she think it is such an iconic piece in the western world? She says “Cowboys and Indians are integral part of the American West, so why not their fashion?” I couldn’t agree more.
Next we meet Katherine Merck, former Miss Rodeo America 2016. She is an alumnus of Notre Dame and lives in Spokane Washington. Before earning her Miss Rodeo America title, she was Miss Rodeo Washington. Here’s her story: “My first Squash Blossom was a gift from my mother for my 22nd birthday. It is mostly silver, with one piece of turquoise. She gave me my grown-up Squash Blossom this past year for my 26th birthday! My Squash Blossoms hold so much meaning to me because of the stories behind them. The two of them together reflect the change and growth I experienced between turning 22 and turning 26. I became a stronger, more confident woman who was proud to show my personality and uniqueness to the world, rather than one who was concerned about if I could really “pull something off.” The Squash Blossoms are pieces that were crafted before me and will last long after me. I can wear them for the rest of my life and someday pass them down to my daughter and granddaughter, along with the stories and memories that they hold. Both were thoughtful gifts from my sweet mom. They have so much meaning to me when I wear them as gifts that commemorate important moments in my life, and help me to celebrate the relationship I have with my mom.” Katherine fell in love with the Squash Blossom when she and her mom went to the well-known “Daddy of’em all”…Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo. All of the Rodeo Queens wear a Squash with their iconic outfit. A surprise came this past summer at Cheyenne where she first fell in love with the necklace: “I celebrated my 26th birthday in Cheyenne as Miss Rodeo America and opened a surprise sent by my mom – my very own, full turquoise squash blossom!” She says, “The Squash Blossom seamlessly combines tradition and modernity along with our western roots and contemporary fashion. It is reminiscent of the Old West with it’s Native American Origins. Also, with the blending of cultures it evolves into a uniquely American treasure. Just like a cowboy hat can be worn different ways, and the styles may change over time, they are still a timeless symbol of the West.”
Lastly we hear from Cholla Terry. She owns her own business, and it has a lot to do with this lovely necklace. “I am the owner of Cholla’s Turquoise. I love collecting and selling Native American made jewelry. I got my first Squash Blossom when I was 20! A turquoise squash blossom is the quintessential piece. They are each such works of art. I was travelling to New Mexico for my 20th birthday to make connections to start up my turquoise business when I ended up finding my first Squash Blossom there.
It was simply beautiful. A bit smaller than others I had seen, with vintage details in turquoise and sterling. I was so excited to finally get one. What I love most about a Squash Blossom is that you can dress it up or down, so it complements any outfit. At this stage of my life, I have a few Squash Blossoms, so I may pair a smaller one with either a plain or graphic tee with a pair of blue jeans. On most days, and when I’m going to a special event like a rodeo, I’ll wear a bigger one with a cute blouse, hat, jeans, and boots.”
I hope you enjoyed the stories these amazing women all shared. I think we can all relate to a special item we may have, no matter what it may be. I asked my followers to send in their own pictures and they demonstrate that you can have a Squash just for fun as did @jaymekenna with her faux Squash from Pretty Western. If you’d like to follow any of these darling dolls on Instagram where this blog/article helped come to life for me, I have included their Instagram handles! @sweetflowerhome @katherine.merk @chollas_turquoise @silverconcho @carlylong. …until next time!