September 19, 2008 10:12 PM • by Learn about Hawaii • Posted to Hawaii | Hawaii Culture | Hawaii Shopping | Comments (845) | PermalinkThe world's love of Hawaiian jewelry was born in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Princess Liliuokalani was presented with gifts of jewelry at Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The stunning simple gold design was offset by elegant and intricate lettering, which spelled the princess's name in Old English lettering. She was so impressed with the style that she had some crafted for other members of her family. The Royal Family then commissioned all goldsmiths throughout the land learn this art of jewel crafting.
Hawaiian Heirloom jewelry. When Prince Albert died, Queen Victoria and then Queen Liliuokalani had special "mourning" bracelets made in remembrance. The ebony lettering was the perfect reflection of grief over the loss of their beloved Prince. Besides mourning rituals, this gold and ebony jewelry was given to commemorate any special occasion, such as births and graduations. Now these pieces are passed down through generations and it's considered an honor to be trusted with this priceless work of art.
It's no wonder these magnificent jewels are revered as priceless heirlooms. Hawaiian Heirloom jewelry is still hand crafted to this day. It takes over a decade for the jewel smith to master the art of etching perfectly. From earrings to bracelets to anklets, each piece takes an average of 15 man hours to complete. More delicate pieces with traditional Hawaiian etchings can take nearly 20 man hours. The traditional pieces have caught on more in recent years. Newer Hawaiian jewelry has been crafted with the honu (sea turtle), maile leaves, and scrolls to honor the native culture. These are truly a perfect blend of ancient art and modern day techniques.
Although Hawaiian jewelry has come a long way since the first Hawaiian pieces were made, these pendants and bracelets still hold the time-honored tradition of hand crafted excellence. Chinese white chalk is still used to draw the Old English letters. The process of etching the pieces still takes eight separate hand tools and over 20 hand operations. The silicone enamel is mixed with liquid and poured into the lettering. It's then heated beyond 1500 degrees and polished. Sometimes the crafters repeat this step several times to get it just right. All of this is done before the engraver even gets started! These jewelry geniuses have a way of making the "light dance" off the piece.
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