The crescent shaped kina shell pectoral is the traditional shell valuable that lends its name to the modern PNG currency. It is cut in a crescent shape from a large pearl oyster shell. In the1930s, kina shells were so rare and valuable that the early white explorers could finance and feed a party of 80 – 100 bearers and police for weeks simply by carrying in a sack or two of waste oyster shell from the pearlers in Torres Straits. It also led to its own special magic, a wooden kina called a “somp”. The somp had a tiny fragment of oyster shell glued onto it, and was meant to attract a full size kina by magic. Most Highlands kina are stained red with cheap water colour powder paint, which is regarded as a precious luxury and purchased at trade stores by the spoonful!
This old 1940s example has a good patina and an original hand knotted kneck strap decorated with a cowrie shell at each end. Note the holes for the attachment of the neckband that have been drilled the old fashioned way with a friction drill with a stone point, so that the holes are conical at both sides, a sure sign of true age.
Dimensions: Across the holes 19 cm / 7 ˝ inches . Maximum depth (shell only) 9 cm / 3˝ inches