Royal Hawaiian Bowl, ca. 1840

Value (2004) | $18,000 Auction$20,000 Auction

GUEST:
I received it from my mom, who received it from her mother-in-law. My grandparents received it from their parents, who received it from their parents. So I know it goes back quite a few generations in our family. I believe that the origin of the bowl is Hawaii. This is what has been passed on through the family. My grandfather had grown up a little while in Hawaii.

APPRAISER:
Well, you're absolutely right about thinking it's an Hawaiian bowl, and it's really a magnificent specimen. It's quite extraordinary and probably of royal status.

GUEST:
Really?

APPRAISER:
There's a history of these bowls going all the way back to the fifth century, and there are some in the Bernice Bishop Museum in Hawaii. And the large ones-- they were usually restricted for the royal family. And they would use them in their luaus for feasting. This is a particularly wonderful one, and you can see by the inside here that it hasn't been turned, but it was scooped out. And generally what they would do-- they would find a particularly wonderful piece of koa wood, which this is made of, and they would do a rudimentary shaping of it, and then they sometimes would put it in a swamp or a very damp place for up to a year so that it would key and get stabilized. Then they would rudimentarily again carve out the center, sometimes with fire to help scoop it all out, then shape the outside by hand. They were always held in very high regard, so much so, that whenever there were any stress cracks or any breakages, they would do these wonderful repairs, these butterfly repairs on the bottom here-- anything to keep a wonderful bowl. You find a lot of them that are smaller. It's hard to find a large piece of koa wood. Have you any idea what this is worth?

GUEST:
I thought because of the crack in the bottom, that would diminish its value greatly, you know, and I was thinking maybe around $4,000. But it's just a guess.

APPRAISER:
Well, the cracks and the repairs actually enhance them, because they really stopped doing those sorts of repairs in the 1880s or so. These were still considered very important objects. I think the king in 1886 commissioned for his 50th birthday a large group of the bowls that were really large ones like this. This bowl-- it's in wonderful condition. It's a great piece. Probably $18,000 to $20,000.

GUEST:
Really? Amazing. Well, my estimate was a little off. (laughing) I've been wheeling this thing around on a luggage cart today.

APPRAISER:
Oh, really? They're actually very durable. It's an extremely hard wood.

GUEST:
Wow... My mother is going to flip.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Anthony Slayter-Ralph Fine Art
Santa Barbara, California
Appraised value (2004)
$18,000 Auction$20,000 Auction
Event
Portland, OR (August 21, 2004)
Period
19th Century
Form
Bowl
Material
Koa Wood

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