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19

Whale Tooth Necklace, Fiji

Restricted Species

Estimate:

15,000

to
- 25,000 USD

Property from an American Private Collection

Whale Tooth Necklace, Fiji

Whale Tooth Necklace, Fiji

Estimate:

15,000

to
- 25,000 USD

Lot sold:

16,380

USD

Property from an American Private Collection

Whale Tooth Necklace, Fiji


Longest tooth: 5 ¾ in (14.5 cm); shortest tooth: 3 ¼ in (8.2 cm)

To request a condition report for this lot, please contact Gaia.Lettere@sothebys.com

Reportedly J. F. G. Umlauff, Hamburg, acquired before 1900
Private Collection, New York
Sotheby's, New York, November 24, 1992, lot 31, consigned by the above
American Private Collection, acquired at the above auction
Dramatic necklaces such as this were much prized in Fiji in the mid-19th century. Known as wasekaseka or waseisei, the necklaces were made from cut sections of sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) teeth, with the elegant, sweeping curve of each individual “tusk” following the natural curve of the tooth. Hooper notes that “sawn vertically and horizontally, a large tooth could probably furnish from six to ten tusks, which were then rubbed and polished to a smooth finish.” (Steven Hooper, Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific, Norwich, 2016, p. 136). Like other prestige objects fashioned from whale teeth, these necklaces were probably made for the chiefly class by Tongan canoe craftsmen, and whilst exact “places of manufacture are hard to establish […] they are very likely to have been canoe-building centres in Lau, northern Fiji and possibly Kadavu.” (ibid.). These coveted objects certainly circulated throughout the Fijian archipelago; Clunie notes that many necklaces “made their way into the highlands of eastern Viti Levu […] mostly as a form of blackmail paid by the coastal and lowland chiefs in enlisting or subverting the dread highland mercenaries.” (Fergus Clunie, Yalo i Viti: a Fiji Museum Catalogue, Suva, 1986, p. 160).