Island Heirloom

January 24, 2012 | By Natalie Tarce

The timeless beauty of Hawaiian heirloom jewelry is enhanced by a rich tradition that connects the wearer to Queen Lili‘uokalani, the Hawaiian monarchy and its close ties with England.

In 1862, news of the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, reached Hawai‘i. Soon after, mourning jewelry, which was gaining popularity in England, quickly caught on in the islands. High Chiefess Lili‘u Kamaka‘eha (who later became Queen Lili‘uokalani) ordered a gold bracelet in the style of traditional Victorian black-enameled mourning jewelry with the Hawaiian phrase “Ho‘omana‘o Mau” (Lasting Remembrance), which featured designs that included feather capes to represent Hawaiian royalty. These combined styles crafted in gold with engraving and enamel in Old English script form the basis for today’s Hawaiian heirloom jewelry.

Contemporary jewelers have embraced the style adored by the queen, but have also made strides in modernizing Hawaiian jewelry. The English influence remains but is subtle and now they bear designs that reflect the Hawaiian culture.

Popular jewelers include Philip Rickard, whose specialty includes Hawaiian wedding rings and custom-made bangles. Another Waikiki-based jeweler is Jason Park Sacred Jewels of Mu. According to owner Jason Park, each piece begins with his drawings, which are modeled into a 3-dimensional program for further refinement. A wax model is then crafted before casts of gold or silver are made.

“In keeping with traditional jewelry engraving from the Victorian-era, we finish each piece by 100 percent hand-only engraving done by master artisans,” shares Park.

Hawaiian Heirloom Jewelry has come a long way. What started as a reflection of one woman’s sentiment has evolved into a lasting symbol of Hawai‘i’s monarchy and a way for us to commemorate significant milestones in our lives.