Brief history and description
A Kava bowl is made from a single piece of dense hardwood called Ifilele, and is typically hand-carved and inlaid with both mother of pearl and seashell. Large Kava bowls are also called Tanoas, and typically feature multiple legs depending on where the bowls were originally crafted; (in Fiji, Tanaos were commonly decorated with seashells as well).
Kava bowls were traditionally used in ceremonies such as funerals, rituals or religious events to drink a beverage made from the roots of the medicinal Kava plant.
Guide for collectors
Kava bowls which feature unique engravings, carvings or figurines are considered to be the most rare and valuable. Multi-legged Tanoas from Fiji or Samoa are also considered to be both rare and valuable, especially if the Tanoas were once used in a traditional ceremony.
Restoration of a Kava bowl is recommended, but only if there is noticeable damage. However, restoring the bowl may decrease its value.
For more information regarding Kava bowls, visit the Kava Kava Shop's official website or Paradise Gypsy's official website.
Sotheby's in New York sold a Kava bowl from the Fiji Islands (18" in diameter) carved in the form of a turtle for $137,750 in November of 2001.
Sotheby's in Melbourne, Australia sold a Kava bowl (62.5 cm in diameter) made of carved vesi wood and featuring a cowrie shell attached one of the legs for $7,200 AUS in November of 2005.
Skinner in Massachusetts sold a Polynesian carved wooden Kava bowl (circa 19th century; Fiji; 17.5" in diameter) which was carved in the form of an animal for $2,900 in May of 2006, and the same Polynesian carved wooden Kava bowl for $500 in May of 2006.
Clars Auction Gallery in Oakland, California sold a Kava bowl and ladle for $110 in May of 2011.
Crescent City Auction Gallery in New Orleans, Louisiana sold two Samoan Tanoa Kava bowls (circa 20th century) with rope handles for $25 in September of 2009.