Twenty years ago, Open Eyes, Issue 11 1993, featured a front page article on a gift the Friends presented to Te Papa in that year. Bone Stone Shell is a collection of over 40 items of contemporary jewellery and body adornment made by 12 of New Zealand’s leading craftspeople.

Bone Stone Shell New Jewellery New Zealand was a touring exhibition developed in 1988 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to show overseas audiences the new and important direction of New Zealand jewellery. Jewellery was therefore treated with considerable cultural importance by the government. This exhibition toured internationally for five years and then the collection Bone Stone Shell, originating from that exhibition, was gifted to Te Papa. This was a very significant gift and became the foundation for the development of the contemporary jewellery collection at Te Papa.

Jenny Harper, then Director of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, said “The gift of Bone Stone Shell signals the Museum’s commitment to develop its collections in the areas of the applied and decorative arts, acknowledging these as important aspects of New Zealand’s creative life.”

John Edgar, whose work features in the exhibition, writes in the 1988 catalogue, “A growing awareness of our place in the South Pacific has led a number of New Zealand carvers and jewellers to use traditional materials in a contemporary way that acknowledges our bicultural heritage and redefines our values in the twentieth century. These materials and the objects made from them are our homage to the past, our amulets in the present and our treasures for the future.”

The collection ranges from the paua, bone and argillite necklaces of Warwick Freeman and John Edgar’s greywacke and jade amulets, to Inia Taylor’s finely carved bone necklaces and Elena Gee’s pendants, exquisitely arranged in a variety of found ‘boxes’.

Many of you will be familiar with individual pieces; you will have seen them in a variety of exhibitions at Te Papa or in touring exhibitions. This new exhibition opening mid-October will be the first time you can see the original Bone Stone Shell exhibition, its influences, and some of its inheritors – contemporary jewellers using non-precious materials to explore questions of personal and cultural identity.

You can read Mark Amery’s review of the exhibition on thebigidea.co.nz here

Feature Image: Detail: Jenny Pattrick, Flight of birdsrings, 1987, New Zealand. Gift of the Friends of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 1993. Te Papa