The Enduring Legacy: Hawaiian Heirloom Jewelry

November 7, 2013 | 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) and 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 bears designs that reflect the Hawaiian culture.

Popular jewelers found around Waikiki include Na Hoku, Maui Divers Jewelry, Makani Hawaii, LeiLei Hawaiian Jewelry, Koa Nani Luxury Hawaiian Jewelry, Olivia Hawaiian Heirloom Jewelry, Silver Rhino and Laki Hawaiian Design. At Waikiki-based jeweler Sacred Jewels of Mu, each piece begins with drawings, which are modeled into a three-dimensional program for further refinement. A wax model is then crafted before casts of gold or silver are made. In keeping with the jewelry engraving traditions from the Victorian era, master artisans hand-finish the engraving on each piece.

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.