Links of Gold

Two queens, on islands half a world apart, inspired a tradition more than a century old.

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Na Hoku hand crafted golf Hawaiian bracelets
1) Na Hoku still crafts Hawaiian heirloom bracelets by hand, a process that begins with engraving the text into unadorned 14K gold. 2) Na Hoku’s artisans use no templates, and employ only traditional tools to carve motifs like this plumeria pattern. 3) This heirloom piece awaits its final touch: the black enameling that traditionally embellishes the wearer’s name. 4) Depending on the size and style, Hawaiian heirloom bracelets can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.

Ekela Kaniaupio-Crozier recalls her older sister receiving a Hawaiian bracelet upon graduating from college. “My dad told me, ‘When you graduate from college, you’ll get a bracelet, too.’”

As a young girl, she’d peer into the window displays at the former Security Diamond at Honolulu’s Ala Moana Center. “I remember walking by it all the time and looking at the bracelets and thinking, ‘I’m going to own one of those someday,’” she says.

When Ekela was nineteen years old, her dad passed away. She quietly figured that his promise of a Hawaiian bracelet was gone, too.

At her college graduation a few years later, her mother and brother presented her with a Hawaiian bracelet inscribed with her last name. “I was shocked,” says Ekela. “They told me that my father would want me to have one, and that took me right back to when I was a little girl.”

That bracelet now belongs to Ekela’s daughter Kaleialoha.

It’s been around 150 years since Queen Lili‘uokalani donned her trendsetting gold bracelets, inspiring what would become one of Hawai‘i’s most treasured traditions. Today, these heirloom pieces are delicate time capsules, holding in them the history of Hawai‘i and the memories of each wearer.

“As Hawaiians, our mo‘olelo [stories] are so important,” says Maelia. “With heirloom jewelry, the mo‘olelo live on in each piece.”

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