NATURAL BONE - PENDANTS & JEWELLERY
Hand Carved Bone Pendants and Necklaces - Designed and Made in New Zealand by Local Artists and Bone Carvers
Our bone carvings are all hand carved from natural materials which we source in New Zealand and the South Pacific. We use a variety of materials ranging from deer antler, cattle bone, woolly mammoth and boar's tusk. These materials all vary in their texture and appearance which gives us the ability to carve unique and interesting Bone necklaces in traditional and contemporary designs.
Traditional bone carving has a long history in New Zealand and the wider South Pacific - initially it was a means to create useful tools like bone fish hooks, needles for sewing, and combs called heru. Bone carving was also used to capture family history and to tell stories important to Māori. Over time this skill further evolved to produce very decorative pieces that were worn and displayed - and so the tradition of wearing bone jewellery developed and evolved.
Initially the bone Maori used for carving came from the Moa, a native flightless bird found in New Zealand, and from stranded whale. When the Europeans introduced other animals like pigs, deer and cattle, the bones from these were also used to carve tools and jewellery.
We use all of these materials in our bone carving, and we also import and carve rare and beautiful Woolly Mammoth tusk.
We design and make a wide range of traditional Māori bone carvings. These are all hand carved from natural materials and are bound by us in the traditional manner.
THE BONE WE USE IN OUR CARVING
Cow bone is a nice tight grained bone that is generally good to carve, producing nice consistent pendants. This type of bone is plentiful and widely used in bone carving. The nice thing with pendants carved in cow bone is the way that it changes colour over time as it absorbs oils from the person wearing it. Māori believe that the pendant absorbs mana, or the spirit, of the wearer so old bone pendants passed down through families are believed to carry ancestral spirits. Old family carvings are treated as family members and are considered to be Taonga - treasures.
Whalebone is a material traditionally used by Māori for bone carving.
When whales stranded they were valued as a source of food, and their teeth and bones were used to carve ornaments. Many of these carvings were highly regarded and treasured, and were believed to hold the spirit of the whale. Today, the use of whalebone is regulated in New Zealand. Whales are a protected species and the collection of their bones is protected under law.
The bone varies considerably depending on the whale type and the part of the whale the bone comes from. The teeth are very hard and tight-grained, these are rare and valuable. Teeth are often used to carve smaller objects - netsuke for example. The bone from the jaw also has quite a tight grain and can be carved in reasonable detail. Other bones, the ribs for example, are a much coarser grain and make magnificent larger pieces.
Woolly Mammoth Tusk
This is an ancient material recovered from animals that have been preserved over tens of thousands of years in the permafrost. Our mammoth tusk comes from the Alaskan tundra - recovered as the snow and ice melts, revealing these long extinct creatures. Each piece is unique in grain and colour and has been carved to accentuate the natural beauty of the material.
This material has a wonderful, variable grain and makes spectacular ornamental pendants and necklaces. The colour of the tusk also varies widely depending on where it comes from and the piece of the tusk that is used. Material used from the centre of the tusk has a tight grain and is generally a white cream colour. The closer towards the outside of the tusk, the more colourful and grainy the material becomes. This variability in appearance allows us to carve visually stunning pendants - no two pieces are the same.
Another beautiful material for carving is the antler from our local Red Deer. The antlers are naturally shedded every year at the end of the mating season - 'the roar'. Antler lends itself to carving very interesting pieces especially where the natural form and texture of the bone is integrated into the carving.
The bone varies considerably from base to tip - the oldest material at the tip is extremely hard and beautiful to carve in detail. Further towards the base, the younger material is a lot more porous and can be very grainy.
Another beautiful material to carve - it is very hard towards the tip and often has a lot of character. We use these generally in their original form carving detail into the tusk or using them with other materials like jade. A boars tusk pendant is visually very striking and have a real presence. Although they are often quite large a good portion of the tusk is hollow so they are not too heavy to wear.
From time to time we also carve pieces from other materials like sword fish bills, Marlin Swords and bone from other animals. These are generally one off pieces that are carved specifically to the material being used. These pieces can be found in our bone collection.
Some examples of interesting and popular bone necklace designs are:
THE HOOK - MATAU
The matau pendant - traditionally called a hei-matau when worn as a pendant. These are a very popular design and have their roots both in Maori myth and in their reverence for the hook as a means to catch fish and provide food for their people.
Maori were great ocean voyagers and relied on their ability to catch fish to survive these voyages. A good hook was valued highly, so the owner of one held a position of respect in the community. Today they are still gifted to recognise a person's importance and position.
Māori legend tells the story of New Zealand's discovery by Maui - a great mariner. New Zealand was a huge fish that Maui caught from his waka - the North Island - pulling up the South Island while fishing. He caught it using a bone hook. Therein lies the reason that the matau is a revered, and popular bone carving design.
Here are two hook designs we make that have their heritage in traditional design. The first is carved from Woolly Mammoth Tusk and is a simple hook design with traditional engraving in the front face. The second piece is carved in a beautiful, granular whalebone and is a more decorative piece. The hook has a manaia head and incorporates a koru where the barb would be. As the carvers art has evolved designs have also changed but the fundamental principle of design 'telling a story' is alive and well in the art that we produce.
WHEKU - ANCESTOR
The Wheku is a very traditional design that is normally found gracing the gables in meeting houses - called Wharenui. Wheku translates to 'carved face' and traditionally represents an important ancestor to the tribe.
Wheku are carved in varying designs, very traditional and visually striking pieces that make beautiful necklaces. The eyes are often made from Paua shell or Mother of Pearl, and usually the faces are carved and the tongue is protruding. This is a design that has some significance throughout the South Pacific reflecting a respect for history and important ancestors.
These two designs are very traditional, the first is a tiki with a wheku head that has been carved with a lot of detail incorporating a number of design elements. The second is a more traditional Wheku design carved in Mammoth Tusk.