This piece of sperm-whale tooth (it is the top part only) was collected in Kiribati in the 1890s. Whale teeth are highly prized by many cultures across the Pacific. Used as an ornament, as this one was, they show others the wearer is of high status. They can also have a monetary value or be exchanged as gifts, showing respect for the status of the recipient.

Kiribati is an island nation made up of over 30 atolls. The relationship between land and see is strong and reflected in many of the objects from across the region now in museum collections. In 1892 Kiritbati was claimed for the British crown by Admiral Edward Henry Meggs Davis. Davis collected approximately 1400 objects during his stay in the Pacific, 100 of which are now in the Powell-Cotton Museum, including this tooth.