The New Zealand national icon: the Kiwi

Kiwi bird

I recently visited a wildlife park called Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch New Zealand and witness the wonderful work they are doing to care for and preserve some of our native animals who face struggles to survive in the wild.

The small, island paradise of New Zealand is home to many unusual animals, including one of the most special and precious ones I was lucky enough to observe, our little kiwi bird.
Here I seen New Zealand’s national icon, the kiwi, as it searched for food within a Nocturnal Kiwi House (dark room) and not only did I have the opportunity to see the birds forage for food but I learnt all about these remarkable animals from a wildlife guide.

Kiwis are fascinating birds and are unique to New Zealand. They are New Zealand’s national icon but like most of our native fauna are under constant threat.
This visit made me think about the unique and special pieces of New Zealand Jewellery we have in our range which honours The Kiwi, a native flightless bird unique to New Zealand – just as unique as our beautiful Paua.

PE290/PE190 – Kiwi Earrings Paua
JE290 – Kiwi Earrings – Jade
GP730/PO730 – Kiwi Brooch small – Paua
GP536/PO536 – Kiwi Pendant small – Paua
GP820/PO820 – Kiwi Pendant Large – Paua
GO420 – Kiwi Pendant – Jade
GO530 – Kiwi Brooch – Jade
GO536 – Kiwi Pendant Small – Jade
GP064/PO064 – Kiwi Tie bar – Paua
SP11– Kiwi Pendant – Sterling Silver

The Kiwi is widely known as an iconic symbol of our country as well as being the colloquial name fondly given to all New Zealanders. Our cute wee Kiwi jewellery pieces symbolise our national pride and are truly treasured by all that wear them.

Kiwis are found only in New Zealand in forests, scrublands and grasslands. They sleep in burrows, hollow logs or under dense vegetation. They are typically nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and are active during the night when they spend their time foraging for food.
The story of how New Zealand people came to be known as “kiwis” is quite varied and interesting.
Although there were various attempts to impose other symbols on us. Before the turn of the 20th century, symbols for New Zealand included fern leaves, a small boy, a young lion cub, and even a moa. We were En-Zedders, Maorilanders or Fernleaves, or even worse Pig Islanders.

As the kiwi bird itself began to retreat further into the bush, its image began to appear as an emblem in the second half of the 19th century. It was used as a trademark for several locally made products, and on Bank of New Zealand notes. When the first New Zealand pictorial stamps were issued in 1898, the kiwi was on the sixpenny stamp.

The Kiwi symbol began to be recognised internationally in 1906 when Kiwi Shoe Polish was launched in Melbourne by a man with a New Zealand born wife. The polish was widely marketed in  Britain and the USA during World War I and later.

But it is was the New Zealand military which came to make the kiwi their own. The kiwi as an emblem first appeared late last century in a great number of military badges.
New Zealand’s servicemen were by and large country boys, farm boys. They would have been very familiar with the bird as they were still very numerous in rural areas around the turn of the 20th century. Perhaps it appealed to their sense of humour to take on the identity of a bird where the male had a glorious far reaching call and the female just growled, where the female laid a huge egg which the male incubated. It sounded all too much like married life to the New Zealand male. And they were such aggressive scrappy birds with their strong legs and sharp claws they would take on anything and anyone. The soldiers made the bird their own.

During the First World War, New Zealanders carved a giant kiwi on the chalk hill above Sling Camp in England. In Flanders during the war, the name “Kiwi” for New Zealand soldiers came into general use. By the Second World War, the Kiwi was synonymous with New Zealand Servicemen overseas. During the war, the Kiwi Concert Party toured many battle areas. The Kiwi, New Zealand Army, Football Team which toured the British Isles, France and Germany in 1945-46 also enhanced the emblem’s popularity.

The Native New Zealand people, Māori traditionally believed that kiwi were under the protection of Tane Mahuta, god of the forest. They were used as food and their feathers were used for kahu kiwi—ceremonial cloaks. Today, while kiwi feathers are still used, they are gathered from birds that die naturally or through road accidents or predation, or from captive birds. Kiwi are no longer hunted and some Maori consider themselves the birds’ guardians.

Wearing any of my beautiful unique Kiwi Jewellery always fills me with pride, not only for my country but also for the remarkable New Zealand Jewellery industry in which I am involved.

Kiwi Pendant - large - Sterling Silver - Ariki New Zealand Jewellery