Eskimo Ivory Carving on Russian Box
Appraised Value: $3,000 - $5,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
A viewer's recent email regarding an appraisal of an Inupiaq cribbage board prompted us to review past appraisals that mentioned Eskimo culture.
It is ANTIQUES ROADSHOW's intention to use culturally respectful terms when discussing the history of items being appraised on the show. We acknowledge that terms that describe a person or group’s identity regarding race, ethnicity, religion, etc., can change over time or have different meaning to different people. "Eskimo" is a word that has different connotations depending on where you live in the Northern Hemisphere.
In Canada and Greenland, "Eskimo" has negative connotations and is no longer an accepted term. "Inuit" is preferred, but that term is not commonly used in the United States. In the U.S., "Eskimo" is not considered to be derogatory and is in common usage. "Eskimo" is used when speaking of two main indigenous cultural groups collectively: "Yupik" (a culture group from Western Alaska) and "Inupiat" (a culture group from Northern Alaska and St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea). When one of these groups is being referenced, "Yupik" or "Inupiat" is favored over "Eskimo" by Alaskan Natives.
The term "Alaskan Natives" includes all indigenous peoples of Alaska: Eskimo, Unangan (Aleut), and American Indian, and is also considered broadly acceptable
The Chukchi and the Siberian Yupik (Eskimo) are indigenous Arctic peoples. The Chukchi mainly reside in Chukotka, the far northeast corner of Siberia.
Appraisal Video: (2:08)
Antiques Appraiser and Consultant,, Specialist, American Indian Art and Ethnographica
GUEST: I am a collector of antiques, and I have never been able to figure this box out. It looks like a lacquer box to me, a Russian lacquer box, but on the top is an inset of what looks to be carved ivory. I've just... I've never been able to figure out where it came from or, um, who made it.
APPRAISER: Where did you acquire it?
GUEST: I bought it at an estate tag sale in Wilmington, Delaware.
APPRAISER: When you placed it on the table, I was immediately a little perplexed, because I did recognize it as being a Russian lacquer box. And then, when we looked closer, we were stunned to see the medallion of carved walrus ivory, which is definitively carved by Eskimo hand.
APPRAISER: And it's really a wonderful cross-cultural piece. It's from the Chukchi. They're from the Bering Strait. The box is a papier-mâché base.
APPRAISER: Then, the Russian lacquer over in black. And usually, you see these things with a narrative from Russian folktales.
GUEST: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
APPRAISER: The piece is probably from the late 1800s, 1870 to 1890. And what distinguishes Russian lacquer more than anything is the red interior.
GUEST: I have actually seen boxes like this before with, like, um, horses and sleds on the top, painted, Russian.
APPRAISER: Yes, and that's what people typically see.
APPRAISER: But to see the narratives of the hunters aiming at all these different sea creatures, including the narwhal, is really quite wonderful. Now, you paid how much for this piece?
GUEST: I paid $18 for it.
APPRAISER: I had to collaborate, because, honestly, you don't see these things. I've never seen one. So... this is probably a $3,000 to $5,000 retail piece
GUEST: Oh, my gosh.
APPRAISER: on today's market. It just gave me chills.
GUEST: Oh, my gosh. Me, too. It just gave me chills.
APPRAISER: Honestly, I'm in love with it
GUEST: Oh, my gosh.
APPRAISER: just because where it came from. This is such a remote area.
GUEST: I was hopeful maybe it would be worth $500 to $600.
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