Vintage 1970’s Navajo squash blossom necklace- 3rd place winning Inter-Tribal ceremonial’s 1972
SQUASH BLOSSOM NECKLACE
While squash blossom imagery can be found in petroglyphs (rock art) that pre-date European contact in the Southwest, Dubin said the squash blossom necklace was created in the late 1870s or early 1880s after the native people of the area made contact with Spanish Mexicans.
The Navajo, it is believed, were the first tribe to adopt the design, but by the early 1900s, the art form had spread to neighboring tribes, including the Zuni and the Pueblo.
While the entire necklace has taken its name from one type of bead, the classic squash blossom necklace actually has three distinct parts: the plain round beads; the round beads Naja.
Naja is also representative of the womb, and when a squash blossom necklace features a single turquoise nugget suspended from the Naja, it is often interpreted to be symbolic of a child in the womb.
Naja Symbol Meaning
The naja is a crescent-shaped piece that is often worn alone as a pendant or as the center piece of a squash blossom necklace in Southwestern Indian jewelry. … The word “naja” is the Navajo word for “crescent”. “Naja” is the name the Navajo gave to a symbol believed to have originated in the Middle East in ancient times. Like some many symbols, it was created as a talisman for protection, with the Moors affixing it to their horses’ bridles to ward off the evil eye.
Spiny Oyster Shell
Living Spondylus shells are, indeed, very spiny, but the polished product looks very smooth, with some of its color variation strongly resembling that of the Blood Oyster. The resemblance is strong enough that it’s important to ask, when purchasing these materials, if they’re from Blood Oyster or Spiny Oyster. Artists often use Spiny Oyster as a substitute for Blood Coral. Although not nearly as rare as the Blood Coral or Rose Coral, divers collect Spiny Oyster by hand, making the work laborious and relatively expensive, with some risks.
The most commonly used Spondylid Bivalve shell colors include orange, reds, and purples and may include distinct striations and color variations. One also finds pink, red, brown, yellow, orange, and white on the market. The Yellow Spiny Oyster’s especially rare.
In the American Oceans, the Spondylids occur along the North American coasts, as far north as North Carolina, on the Atlantic Coast, and northwestern Mexico, on the Pacific Coast. It develops in waters to South America. The Orange Spiny Oyster occurs in shallow to moderately deep waters, where snorkelers and scuba divers readily harvest them. Purple Spiny Oysters grow in deeper water, making them more difficult to find and harvest.
The Sandcast Jewelry Method: Sandcast Native American is a style of Navajo jewelry was first created by silversmiths sometime between 1840 and 1860. The basis of this process is a mold made by carving the desired design into a stone. Using this mold, a piece of jewelry is made (belt buckle, bracelet, ring, etc.) and becomes the “master sample” from which the subsequent sandcast pieces are made.
Sandcasting is a labor-intensive, hand process not to be mistaken with centrifugal and vacuum casting processes. Artisans using this method estimate that it takes approximately three days from start to finish to make a medium sized bracelet.
Sandcasting evolved from casting using sandstone or tufa stone, a relatively soft stone created from compacted volcanic ash. Sandstone held up better, but the tufa was easier to carve.
The process involves many steps, starting by cutting a stone in half and grinding both halves until smooth on the cut side. The tufa stone is sometimes soaked in water to keep dust down and to make it carved in reverse on one of the smoothed halves. Then a cone shaped channel is carved from one edge of the design to the outer edge of the stone. A corresponding channel is carved on the other half. When the two halves are fitted together, this channel becomes the passage way by which the molten silver is poured into the mold. Superheated air trapped in the mold can ruin a design. To prevent this, vents are carved from the extremities of the design out toward the edge of the stone, allowing the air to escape. The stone mold is heated with a torch until it is carbon smoked on the inside of both halves. This prevents the silver from sticking to the mold. The mold is now ready for casting.
The two pieces of the tufa stone are placed together with the pour channels aligned. Originally the pieces were held together by placing strips of wet leather around the stone. As the leather dried, though, it would shrink slightly and bind the two pieces of stone tightly together. Today, artisans use a number of methods, such as wrapping with wire, plywood board and clamps, or rubber straps.
Following the completion of the stone mold, the silver is heated in a crucible with a torch until it is the right temperature, approximately 1850 degrees. Historically, temperature was judged by the color of the molten silver. That is still the most common method used even though many artisans now have access to crucibles with digitally controlled heat. Such fine control increases the chance for a successful pour. The temperature of the outside air must also be taken into consideration. If it is very cold, the silver can become too cool before it runs through the mold. When the silver is judged to be hot enough, it is poured into the mold through the previously carved channel.
The force of gravity pulls the molten silver down through the channel and into the carved mold. Thus the piece is said to have been gravity cast. The tufa stone mold is allowed to cool and the silver piece is removed. Extra silver from the pour channel and the air vents are cut off (debarring) and placed back into the crucible to be reclaimed for future use.
A tufa mold may allow several pours if the design is small and relatively simple. With larger, more complex designs, one or two pours is usually all that can be made from a tufa mold before the stone breaks or the design is ruined by the heat of the silver.
The piece is finished by buffing, filing, soldering on findings, setting stones, etc. and then the piece is ready for the consumer; however, if the piece obtained from the tufa casting is good enough, the artisan may decide to use it as a “master sample” (a model) in the sandcasting process. The process of sandcasting is very similar to that of the tufa casting just described, with the exception of the necessity of carving a new design.
In place of carving a new design, the piece obtained from the tufa casting is used to make the mold in casting sand, a 60/40 mixture or dry cement and oil. The master sample is placed face up on the bottom of a wooden frame. The casting sand is packed down over the master until the frame is filled and firmly packed, completely covering the master piece. The top of the frame is then covered with plywood, cut to size, and turned over so that the bottom is now on top. The artisan moves the frame containing the sand master around on the work surface in a circular motion. This is to ensure that the sand has totally covered the master so that all the design elements will be completely captured.
When the wooden covering is removed, the master piece, embedded in the sand is exposed. It must be lifted out of the sand taking great care not to disturb the impression left in the sand.
This impression in the sand becomes the new mold and its preparation is much the same as that of the tufa mold. A channel for the molten silver and air vents are carved into the mold with a knife. A flat tufa stone is placed against the wooden frame and held together by means of rubber straps. Once again, the molten silver is gravity fed into the mold via the pour channel.
The silver begins to harden almost as soon as it is poured so the artisan must work quickly. The frame is turned so that the silver is resting on the tufa side of the mold. The frame containing the sand is lifted off leaving the silver piece sitting on the tufa stone. The process must be repeated for each piece of jewelry as the sand mold is destroyed by the heat of the molten silver.