The True Story of the First Hawaiian Bracelet
The origins of Hawaiian Heirloom Jewelry date back to the 1860s. Contrary to often repeated story, the original bracelet was not a gift from Queen Victoria to Queen Lili’uokalani. Here’s how the true story was uncovered.
When asked to write an article about it, Mr. Rickard started putting the information together only to discover that several facts didn't match. He reached out to Windsor Castle in England, where all gifts from the English royalty are recorded. Their response was surprising. It likely never happened. In fact, when the Jubilee took place in 1887 and the young Princess Lili’uokalani went to London, she already had the bracelet, as noted in Hawaiian portraits before the Jubilee, and at the time of the Jubilee.
What started as an article, turned into a six-year fact finding mission to uncover the true origin and history of the Hawaiian Jewelry, and a book on the subject that to this day, over 30 years later, remains the only detailed account of history, design, and stories of a jewelry that’s like no other in the world.
The true story begins with ”Hoomanao Mau”, the original Hawaiian bracelet made for the young Lydia Paki, future Queen Lili’uokalani, in the 1860s.
After researching a list of personal items owned by Lili’uokalani and sold at auction, upon her passing, Mr. Rickard knew that the bracelet existed, but not where to find it. Six years of research in Hawai’i and England, about the origins of the designs, enameling and Old English lettering had passed, and still no luck finding the original bracelet, he placed ads in local newspapers. And then a miracle happened. A local Hawaiian resident stepped forth. Her mother was a nurse to the woman who bought the bracelet at auction. When she passed, it was given to the nurse, and later, in true spirit of Hawaiian Jewelry, passed on to the daughter. After meetings, the bracelet’s missing years, pictures, and details were incorporated into the book.
The original bracelet
Hand crafted by Honolulu based jeweler, Christian Eckart, the bracelet emulated fashionable English Victorian motifs. It featured black glass enamel in Old English lettering on gold. Victorian Black Enamel Mourning Jewelry started and grew in popularity in 1861 after the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Symbols on the bracelet are Victorian, referencing English Heraldic meanings, Masonic referencing Lili’uokalani’s husband’s Masonic association, and Hawaiian referencing the Royal symbol of the Kahili, and the phrase Hoomanao Mau (Always Remember).
It was some years after printing the book that Mr. Rickard realized that the symbols must stand for something more important than decoration. He began to write down the meanings associated with each symbol, and in what he describes as a truly magical event, the hidden message started to emerge before his eyes. It translated into a very spiritual and compassionate prayer.
“Always remember, that guidance from above, protects me, and those I protect, by my good judgement, and love of perfection, light, and life, for I am Royalty”.
The bracelet accompanied the future Queen her entire life, through her rise from High Chiefess, to becoming the last reigning monarch of Hawai’i.