Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hawaiian Heirloom Jewelry

Among the very early examples of early Hawaiian jewelry are Queen Emmaʻs silver bracelet engraved "Aloha ia ka heiheimalie."  (I am not sure of the translation; Ka-heihei-malie was a wife of Kamehameha I - I do not know it if relates to her.)

Likewise, reportedly, a gift from Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop to Queen Liliʻuokalani was a bracelet using Victorian scroll, yet traditionally Hawaiian with the word "Aloha" and wrapped with a band of human hair.

Some have suggested (reportedly, incorrectly) that the Hawaiian heirloom jewelry (primarily the gold bracelets with black/raised lettering) started as gifts to Queen Kapiʻolani and Princess Liliʻuokalani when they attended Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887.

Gold jewelry adorned with black enamel was already traditional in England when Queen Victoria turned it into "mourning jewelry" after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861.

It turns out Princess Liliʻuokalani had the English-style mourning jewelry at least 20-years before she traveled to England in 1887 to attend the Jubilee.

In Hawaiʻi, Crown Princess Liliʻuokalani, perhaps empathizing with the widow Victoria, took a liking to the jewelry style and had bracelets made for herself.

In the early-1860s, Liliʻuokalani wore a bracelet that was a precursor of the Hawaiian heirloom jewelry worn by women in Hawaiʻi and elsewhere today.

Its textured surface is embellished with the Hawaiian phrase, “Hoomanao Mau” (Lasting Remembrance,) which is rendered in black enamel.

But the Queen did not save these treasured bracelets for herself.  In 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani presented a gold enameled bracelet to Zoe Atkinson, headmistress at Pohukaina Girls School.

The inscription on the bracelet read "Aloha Oe" ("Farewell to Thee") and "Liliʻuokalani Jan. 5, 1893."

The inscription proved to be prophetic: Just days later, the Queen was forced to abdicate her thrown and the Hawaiian Monarchy had come to a sudden end.

Atkinson, who was an active socialite and the event coordinator for the Queen, became the envy of many young ladies, who then asked their mothers for engraved bracelets of their own.

However, the young girls requested from their mother that their name be placed on the bracelets instead of the phrase "Aloha Oe."

The tradition has since continued throughout the generations. Hawaiian heirloom jewelry has been given as gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, graduations and weddings.

Over the years, the styles (and prices) changed.  By the 1980s they were manufactured using motorized cutters and raised lettering was started.

In the 1990s the engravers latched on to the idea that the designs could be extended to the edge of the bracelets and then scalloped around.

Although machinery made production more diverse and faster, many of the engraving and enameling was done by hand, as it had been done since the 1860s.

In 2008, with the advent of laser cutting machines, new lettering could be achieved, with lettering being a different color than the background.

Today, there is Hawaiian heirloom jewelry from traditional to contemporary - not just folks in Hawaiʻi, but thousands of people from all over the world embrace the Island jewelry.

So, what happened to the Queen's bracelets?

It was the Queen's wish that when she died, that her jewelry was to be sold and the proceeds used to fund an orphanage.  The “Hoomanao Mau” bracelet and another marked “R. Naiu” were inventoried after her death and auctioned for $105 in 1924.

In 2009, Abigail Kawananakoa purchased and donated the “Hoomanao Mau” bracelet to the Friends of ʻIolani Palace; it is part of the display in the Palace Gallery.  It is the image, here.

In addition, I have included some other Hawaiian Jewelry images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook page.  (Lots of good information here from philiprickard-com.)

© 2012 Hoʻokuleana LLC

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