necklet (neck ornament (personal adornment))

Necklet made of small, white marine gastropod shells, each tied into a central string.

Necklace of Seasnail Shells, Hei, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, Central Polynesia. This beautiful style of shell necklace was made throughout tropical Polynesia. While those of Western Polynesia tend to use slightly larger brownish seasnail shells in a more loosely-packed arrangement, this Cook Islands hei nicely shows off the tightly spiralling arrangement of the Central Polynesian version. In the Cook and Society Islands, the seasnails used are yellow-tipped and pink-tipped, and the final effect is visually stunning. A nice feature of the hei is the way that the mouth of each shell covers the piercing of the one below and entirely conceals the central string. The knot where the string’s two ends join is also tightly tied off and hidden, and the result is a single form of shells with no obvious beginning or end. Shells, vegetable fibre. Late 19th Century. Formerly in the private collection of the Rev J. J. K. Hutchin of the London Missionary Society.

Collection Information

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