Maori symbol necklaces — sometimes also referred to informally as bone carved necklaces — are beautiful, intricately designed pieces. Not only do they hold value in their exterior aesthetic nature, but also hold immense importance due to what they symbolize at their core. These necklaces are a significant aspect of the Maori and traditional New Zealand culture and represent their spiritual beliefs and history.
Many of the designs and symbols of these bone carving necklaces date back thousands of years with some even being found in the ancient dwellings of the tribe. There are tons of different designs that are prevalent within the culture, but there are four that are especially meaningful and are ever present within this community: the Koru, Tiki, Pikorua, and Matau. Each of these have their own place and convey different meanings, but are all equally important. Continue reading to explore each of these pieces and the symbols behind them.
Matau necklaces are often called fish hook necklaces due to curved designs with an end that comes to a point. This design is one of the most commonly recognized symbols that are associated with Polynesian culture and tradition. The shape originally derives from the actual fish hooks used by the Maori people and has since become a representation of the values of prosperity and good health.
The Koru is most well known for its unique spiral design that is inspired by the natural look of the Silver Fern — a tree that holds much importance to the Maori people. This design conveys meanings of eternal growth and the relationship between stability and evolution of life. As with the other examples in this list, Koru pendants are most notably carved from bone, however, in some cases they may also be created using pounamu or wood.
Tikis are often associated with the infamous totem poles that are created by different Polynesian tribes in the Pacific Ocean region. Although the exact meaning of the symbol is unclear, it is thought to represent the first human who came to Earth from the stars in Polynesian stories. Because of this, the symbol has a deep meaning that represents everything from good health and protection from evil spirits to fertility and childbirth.
Whereas many of the other necklaces are first noticed for their design, the Pikorua necklace is more famously known for its meaning above all else. These twist necklaces are meant to show a bond between two people and serve as proof for the strength of relationships whether that be through friendship, romantic love, or family. Along with this, the twists of the necklace also have meaning that connects to the paths of eternity and life. Because of these meanings, Pikorua necklaces are usually given as gifts to lovers, family members, friends, or in situations where a loved one has passed away.