Monday, 25 February 2008

While we are on the subject of hornbills

Hornbill Ivory

Hornbill Ivory Brooch

Hand-Carved Hornbill Ivory, 19th Century

A Finely Carved Hornbill Skull, Chinese. Late 19th Century

The Chinese first encountered the material in the 14th Century and it soon became an important trade item with Brunei. During the Ming dynasty, hornbill ivory was valued above true ivory and jade.

The casques were carved into works of art, made into snuff bottles, or made into jewelry for high ranking officials. The Chinese call hornbill ivory ho-ting, which is said to be an approximation of an indigenous name, but in fact means "crane head". Thus, many Chinese erroneously thought the substance came from cranes rather than hornbills. It has also been called golden jade.

While one can not imagine many rushing out to start a collection of golden jade, it must be stressed that the Great Helmeted Hornbill is now an endangered species. Any examples must be antique, anything less would be unconscionable.

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An Aesthete's Lament said...

Okay, I'm hooked; the carved ones are insanely beautiful. Creepy but beautiful.

the House of Beauty and Culture said...

AL - not all have the entire skull intact, they are far less obvious.