After learning Haseya’s story, I immediately felt a connection to her because I am also Navajo. Perhaps because I share her heritage, I wanted to create a piece for her that would honor the Navajo culture, something that is obviously so important to her. Although initially I wasn’t sure what type of jewelry I was going to create, I eventually settled on a sterling silver naja necklace. Usually used as the centerpiece of a traditional squash blossom necklace, a naja is a crescent-shaped pendant and it seemed a fitting way to represent our culture.
Along the naja, I arranged the four peridots so that they point in opposite directions. They represent the four sacred mountains that the Navajo pray to daily. The large garnet at the top of the naja represents Haseya, and the four smaller garnets arranged along the steps at the top of the pendant represent all of the different stages of her life, as she’s grown from a girl on the reservation to a young woman making her way in the world. The four turquoise stones represent the Navajo community.
At the center of the naja is a charm featuring the design of a hogan, which is a traditional Navajo home. Not only do many Navajo grow up and live in hogans, but they’re also where we hold many sacred ceremonies and rituals, including weddings. The hogan means a great deal to many Navajo since so much of life takes place in and around it.
For the rest of the necklace, I created a sterling silver chain with additional gemstones accenting it. The orange spiny oyster shell represents the evening skies and will remind Haseya of the beautiful sunsets she grew up witnessing. I also included some Sleeping Beauty turquoise because it’s very traditional for the Navajo to use in jewelry. Coral and lapis stones finish off the piece, as they’re also often used in our jewelry.
It’s very common for Navajo to wear jewelry every day, and this necklace would be a way for Haseya to continue that tradition while also being reminded of her home and heritage. It represents the Navajo way of which Haseya is so proud.
Betty Padilla is a jewelry designer in Santa Clara, New Mexico.