Our tribal hook shaped fossilized walrus ivory earrings are a graceful and evocative pair inspired by Maori legend and fishing lore, and by one of our designers' favorite muses, the sea.
Jenny Byrne, Zealandia's lead designer, was born and raised in New Zealand where like many Kiwis she was influenced by Maori art and legend. One Maori tale tells of hei matau, the fish hook carvings that are considered good luck charms and talismans for safe passage across the sea. Legend has it that the fabled mariner Maui caught a gigantic fish—which would later become the New Zealand's North Island—with a hook fashioned from his grandmother's jawbone. The hei matau shape was born.
Our tribal hook shape is modified from traditional Maori hei matau, but its mariner influence is still keenly felt. Hand worked sterling silver and an oxidized silver background form the hook silhouette in these carved ivory earrings that highlight a prized material, fossilized walrus ivory.
Our fossilized walrus ivory is between 500 and 3,000 years old—a valuable cultural and economic resource for the Native peoples who gather it. This walrus ivory is buried underground for most of its long life where minerals stain the ivory any shade from warm cream to deep cocoa. It is a sought after focal point in fossilized ivory jewelry designs such as these walrus ivory earrings, lending them a touch of historic sea life.