Whale tooth pendant (Tambua) ; Pre 1925; 74/22/1


Te Manawa


Whale tooth pendant (Tambua)

About this object

Tambua made of whale tooth ivory. It has a hole drilled in each end. Sennit cord attached to the distal end of the tooth.

Date Made

Pre 1925

Place Made


Medium and Materials

Whale tooth, sennit cord


170 mm long , 550 mm diameter

Subject and Association Description

According to the Money Museum in Zurich, Switzerland "Tambua, the tooth of the sperm whale, is the most valuable medium of exchange on Fiji. Tambua are used for important transactions, for instance to pay the bride price. Besides, whale teeth are valuable gifts for births, deaths, weddings, or other festivities.

For an old, polished, well-colored red-ivory tooth one can buy a canoe, while a small white tooth will only buy some fishes. In this way whale teeth gained monetary character in the course of time. But they were always used as valuable gifts as well: When Queen Elizabeth visited Fiji in the 1950s, the president of the island presented her with a whale tooth. To be offered a tambua is a great honor in Fiji.

The older and bigger the teeth are, the higher their value. Sperm whales have 25 to 50 teeth in their lower jaw; big teeth have a length of about 20 centimeters (7.85 inches) and can weigh up to 1 kilogram (35.3 ounces). The older the teeth are, the redder they get. Our specimen has a length of 18 centimeters (7 inches), a weight of 480 grams (16.9 ounces), and is of slightly reddish color." from The Money Museum website http://www.moneymuseum.com/moneymuseum/coins/coin.jsp?lang=en&id=87514

Named Collection

Collection of Te Manawa Museums Trust

Credit Line

Donated by Mr J Brydon Speedy

Object Type

Pendant/Adornment/Personal Artefacts/Nomenclature

Object number


Copyright Licence  

All rights reserved

This object is from
Te Manawa   Te Manawa
valuable gifts

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