Title / object name
Huia beak brooch
|Maker ||Role ||Date |
|Unknown ||goldsmith ||circa 1900 |
beak, gold, metal
|Overall ||27 (Height) x 113 (Length) x 15 (Width/Depth) mm|
Purchased 1996 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds
The Victorian fashion for using animal parts in jewellery and other items made of precious metals included what would today be termed 'rare and endangered' species. This brooch is a sad reminder of the recent extinction of one of New Zealand's most prized native birds, the huia (Heteralocha acutirostris).
A high price
Huia were killed for their prized feathers, and an unknown number of jewellery items were made using beaks. The birds were very rare by about 1900, which is probably when this brooch was made. Demand for human adornment probably played a significant part in pushing the huia to extinction. The last reliably reported sighting is believed to have been about 1907 in the Tararua ranges (near Wellington).
Going, going, gone
Huia brooches still occasionally appear at auctions, where they are, not surprisingly, highly sought after.