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34” Three Strand Kipona Shell Lei with Poleho Shells and Granulated Cowry Clasp.

Artist – Cory Karline of Kauai

Kahelelani shell jewelry represents one of the last genuine Hawaiian art forms available. In Hawaiian history, only the highest members of the society, such as the Ali'i and Kahuna, could wear Kahelelani shells, indicating the wearer's position in a complex social hierarchy. The shells are said to have mana, a potent spiritual power.

Today the shell lei is considered a fine piece of jewelry that can be worn with any kind of attire. Particularly here in Hawaii, the shell lei is worn by both men and women, in business dress or casual dress, but especially for special occasions.

The artists who create these lei use several different kinds of shell. The tiniest shell, the Kahelelani (kah–hey-lay–lan–ee) comes in 14 different colors, each with a specific name and many sizes from 8 to 14 mm. The Momi shell, larger and less colorful, is also widely used. It may take years to accumulate enough shells of matching color and size to create a successful design.


Poleho Shells - Golden Brown, Rare ‘ele ‘ele (black)

Momi Shells - Oniki niki (Spotted), Kaha kaha (Rare Honey Color striped), Uli uli (Blue Grey), Lena lena (Yellow).

Kahelelani Shells‘Oma’oma’o (Tan with a green tinge), Akala pua (Pink with circular bands), Akala ika ika /waipa-pipi (Strong Pink), Ma ku’e (Brown, ‘Ele ‘ele (Black), Kamoa lena lena (Yellow), Kamoa akala (Pink).


To protect this piece and to display it as a piece of art, this shell lei comes with a custom-made koa wood shadow box which measures 20"H x 10"W x 2"D


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