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What are the Different Types of Hawaiian Jewelry?

Plumeria flowers are a popular choice for Hawaiian jewelry.
The humpback whale, an animal associated with Hawaii, is sometimes represented in Hawaiian jewelry.
The hibiscus, a popular flower that grows in Hawaii, is sometimes replicated in jewelry pieces.
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  • Written By: Sarah Valek
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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There are many types of Hawaiian jewelry. The Hawaiian Islands are rich in biodiversity, culture, and are home to a wide array of artisans and jewelers. Hawaiian jewelry can be traced back to the appearance of the Marquesas, who populated the islands in the fourth and fifth centuries. Copies of their artifacts can be purchased today, along with jewelry made of Hawaiian materials, or featuring themes of the islands.

Hawaiian heirloom jewelry was handed down from generation to generation ever since it became known in the Victorian era. This highly collectible kind of Hawaiian jewelry consists of gold bracelets that feature names engraved in Old English lettering filled with black enamel. In 1887, the islands’ Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliuokalani attended a jubilee thrown by Queen Victoria in England. Here, the English royals were presented with gold bracelets with black enamel lettering. The Queen and Princess were so much in awe of these pieces that they had similar ones made for other Hawaiian Royal members. Today people have these pieces custom made for their families.

Some of the islands' native plants are also used to make Hawaiian jewelry. The koa tree is one of the tallest and oldest trees in the state. It’s even considered to predate the arrival of human beings. Wood from the koa tree features a beautiful pattern that makes it an ideal material for rings and other accoutrements. Some jewelers create rings only from dead or downed trees so they won’t harm the environment.

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Coral jewelry was once a popular item but has been linked to the destruction of coral beds, which in itself has been linked to global warming. Many jewelers have stopped making and selling coral jewelry in order to protect their island’s precious ecology. Others only sell carefully harvested coral. Coral can be found in black, gold, red, and pink varieties.

Pearls are also popular in Hawaiin jewelry. Tahitian black pearls are produced by black-lipped oysters and are the focus of many pieces of jewelry.

Aside from beautiful natural resources, Hawaii has many distinct themes that can be replicated onto pieces of jewelry as well. Hawaiian flowers, especially the Hawaiian plumeria, are always popular. Other native flowers include the hibiscus or “China rose”, the bird of paradise, and the orchid.

Hawaiian marine life includes the Hawaiian honu or green sea turtle, the Hawaiian dolphin, the humpback whale, and the Hawaiian monk seal. Other items associated with the islands are the Hawaiian slipper, pineapples, warrior helmets, sarongs, hula skirts, Aloha hearts, anything with tiki designs, and, of course, flower leis. Many pieces of Hawaiian jewelry are engraved with these images of island culture—for example, a ring may feature dolphins and pineapples on it.

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