We at the Bone Art Place have a great love and respect for our natural world. As a general rule we do not use whale bone for carvings unless we know exactly what the source of the bone is and then only for very special ceremonial carvings. Any bone we use must be from ancient stranding's and most often is many hundreds of years old. We WILL NOT use any whale bone from any other source at all and definitely not modern or recent bone.
There is a world wide black market in recent whale bone which we strongly condemn. We also do not believe that such a precious material should ever be used to carve trinkets for sale.
Finally, it is illegal to import whale products into most countries so if you find someone who will supply whale bone carvings, they are very likely to be seized by customs and you may be prosecuted as well.
Type of bone is used for carvings?
In pre-European times there were no cattle or other large land animals in New Zealand other than a large (now extinct) flightless bird called the
Moa which stood up to 3mtrs tall. Some items were carved from its bone but it was really too light and porous.
There were therefore only a couple sources of bone available for the larger carvings. Many large bone carvings were made from whale bone from stranded whales (the Maori did not hunt whales) which should be cured for several years before it can be used.
Smaller pieces such as needles, tattooing knives and spear tips were made from the bones of large birds such as the Albatross and Moa.
The pieces on our site are all carved from cow bone which is now the only readily available source of bone suitable for carving. The bone has to be very fine grained, very dense and also thick enough to make the larger pieces. It is the high density and fine grain of the bone that gives it the ability to hold such a high gloss polish.