A superb royal feather necklace, lei hulu, Hawaiian Islands
with brilliant and full orange and red feathers with an indigenous cordage base and covered with black ribbon; presentation wood frame.
Feather leis were reserved for the exclusive use of the nobility, with the mere possession of feathers by commoners strictly forbidden. The feathers utilized in the construction of these royal ornaments were obtained by po'e kahai manu (specially-trained hereditary bird catchers) from indigenous honeycreepers; typically, in order of rarity and value, the mamo (orange), o'o (yellow), i'iwi or apapane (red) and ou (green).
Given as a gift to Queen Liliuokalani (1838-1917), the last queen of Hawaii, and her husband, John Owen Dominis, the Governor of Oahu
Sybil Francis Kaolaokalani O Liliukalani Dominis Schuh Silver, Hawaii
Sybil Liliukalani Schuh Marvick Collection, Hawaii
Sotheby's, May 19, 2001, Lot 69
Trevenen with Captain James Cook observed in 1779: "The fondness of the women for these ornaments was very great even to supercede that which they had for the different articles of our trade, so precious amongst the Men, Whenever a Woman had acquired a large nail or Hatchet she carefully concealed it from the knowledge of her Male friends till an opportunity offered of purchasing one of these beautiful ruffs in the number & variety of which they placed their chief pretensions to finery and ornament" (in Beaglehole 1967: 626n).