Enquiry about object: 8540
Solomon Islands Gold Lipped Pearl Shell Pendant with attached Shell Currency Strands
Solomon Islands early 20th century
length (of shell): 7cm, width: 6.7cm, weight: 26g
from the estate collection of a former London museum curator
– scroll down to see further images –
This beautiful pendant comprises a single pearl shell that has been polished and drilled with two holes to allow suspension.
Pearl shell was valued across the Pacific for its aesthetic qualities. More usually in the Solomon Islands, it was cut into crescent form, so this example is unusual in that it has not been cut but allowed to retain its natural shape.
It is suspended on coconut fibre twine, to which strands of brown and orange Solomon Islands shell currency has been threaded.
The shell currency of the Solomon Islands has been used in the Islands’ region for hundreds of years. It was used as a part of the bride-price or dowry and also for compensation payments. According to Grulke (2022, p. 203), production of shell money was mainly in the hands of the sea people of Langalanga on the west coast of Malaita. Their name for the currency was bata. Typically, shell currency was strung on cord. It could then be worn for safe keeping in the way that other cultures might wear necklaces of gold.
The ensemble here is all in fine condition and with obvious age. The pearl shell is lustrous and free of chips.
Grulke, W., Adorned by Nature: Adornment, Exchange & Myth in the South Seas, At One Communications, 2022.
Howarth, C., Varilaku: Pacific Arts from the Solomon Islands, National Gallery of Australia, 2011.
Hurst, N., Power and Prestige: The Arts of Island Melanesia and the Polynesian Outliers, Hurst Gallery, 1996.
Neich, R., & F. Pereira, Pacific Jewelry and Adornment, University of Hawai’i Press, 2004.
Waite, D. & K. Conru, Solomon Islands Art: The Conru Collection, 5 Continents, 2008.