Hello Friends and Family,

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Hawai`ian Gold

A bit of Hawai`ian history — during the era of the Hawai`ian monarchy, the kingdom of Hawai`i had a favorable relationship with England (note that the British Union Jack forms the canton of the Hawai`ian flag, which is the same design today at the one that flew over the kingdom).

In February 1862, Prince Albert, husband to England’s Queen Victoria, died. During the queen’s time of grief, only mourning clothes and black-accented jewelry were acceptable apparel at the royal court. Meanwhile, jewelry accented with black jet or enamel and carved with floral, vine or scroll designs became the fashion trend in England. These pieces came in the forms of rings, broaches, pendants and bracelets.

Reacting to Prince Albert’s death, the 23-year-old Hawai`ian princess named Liliu Loloku Walania Kamakaeha (who became Hawai`i’s last monarch — Queen Lili`uokalani) ordered two gold bracelets that precisely followed the style and detail of the black-enameled English mourning jewelry.

In 1887, Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliu attended Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in England. At the Jubilee, Queen Victoria gave them precious gold bracelets each with their name imprinted in Old English Lettering filled with black enamel. They adored the gift so that they had similar bracelets made for Hawai`ian Royal members upon their return to Hawai`i. Hawai`ian Royal had adopted this sophisticated and hand-carved technique and developed it into its unique design inspired by Hawai`ian nature. This Hawai`ian royal heritage has been succeeded and lived on as today’s Hawai`ian Heirloom Jewelry.

If you examine this portrait carefully, you can see that Queen Lili`uokalani is wearing two bracelets which appear to be in the style of Hawai`ian Heirloom Jewelry.

Today, many residents of Hawai`i, as well as those of us who love Hawai`i, wear Hawai`ian Heirloom Jewelry. Some people do it for respect of the deposed royalty — others simply because of the beauty of the jewelry — and others for both reasons.


The pendant pictured above is mine — which I have worn for probably 20 years. The pendant displays the royal coat of arms of the Kingdom of Hawai`i (see the one to the right that I photographed on the gate at `Iolani Palace).

It seems to surprise some people that I would wear a pendant — I guess I don't look like a pendant person. However, it is one of my most cherished possessions.

Some people may also think that Mizuki and I are a bit strange because we have three pairs of wedding rings (or would you call them marriage rings if they were not exchanged during your wedding?). One pair is, quite naturally, Hawai`ian Heirloom jewelry.

These follow the traditional carving of floral scrolling designs although they do not have our names in black enamel. The rings are actually fabricated of two types of gold — the center is yellow gold and the edges are white gold.

Periodically, we will switch the rings that we are currently wearing — but we always match.

Years ago, I wore a college ring on my right hand from my alma mater, Purdue University. Unfortunately, it was stolen during a business trip to (of all places) Hawai`i many years ago when I still lived in Minnesota, working for Control Data Corporation. I was staying at the Ilikai, which was one of the best hotels in Waikiki. I enjoyed the trade winds more than the air conditioning and, since my room was on the 12th floor (or there abouts), left my sliding glass door open. Apparently someone climbed the exterior of the building, going from lanai to lanai looking for unlocked or open sliding glass doors. Fortunately, I did not wake up when the intruder entered my room — but the next morning discovered my wallet on the lanai (minus the cash) and my college ring missing. Hotel Security and the Honolulu Police department seemed amazed at the brazenness of the robbery (I know I was amazed).

The ring was never recovered and I have been ringless on my right hand ever since. This trip to Hawai`i seemed like a good time to rectify that shortcoming. This design does incorporate an enameled old-English letter. Oops you say — the letter is wrong — it is a "K" when it should be "B" or "D" or "C". Well, many people follow the custom of using their Hawai`ian name for Hawai`ian Heirloom jewelry — and my Hawai`ian name is "Kawika" — so "K" is appropriate.

You can clearly see the floral scroll patterns carved in the gold in both photos. You might also note a small diamond on the side (of course there is one on each side) — perhaps not traditional but I like the enhancement.

All my Hawai`ian Heirloom jewelry was crafted by hand by the same company — Precious Metals Hawai`i in Honolulu. There are quite a few companies that sell this style — some better, some not so good. PMH does excellent work, is happy to customize the piece and thus I keep going back.

Before we leave the subject of Hawai`ian gold, here is another valuable form of it. In case you do not recognize this item, it is actually an archive quality DVD disc. In a previous issue, I mentioned that I was using these discs because they are supposed to retain the data longer than the silver color discs that you can buy at Fry's or other similar stores.

It has taken a while but I have now completed burning three copies of each set of photos that I took while in Hawai`i — a total of more than 60 discs. But in the process I really began to notice the rainbow of colors when the light catches the disc just right — which I believe is the result of fine parallel rings forming a diffraction grating. And since rainbows are very common in Hawai`i, it seemed appropriate to share.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com