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How the Last Queen of Hawaii Inspired the Islands’ New Heritage Jewelry Brand

HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi offers a chic and nostalgic spin on a historic royal tradition.

HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi Jewelry HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi

Visitors to Hawaii often come away from the islands with jewelry that evokes memories of their time on the beach, from diamond-studded palm tree earrings to dolphin pendants adorned in mother of pearl.

But for many native Hawaiians, like lifelong friends Meleana Estes and Noël Pietsch Shaw, another jewelry tradition takes precedence. Its history dates back to 1862, when the young future Queen of Hawaiʻi, Lydia Lilʻu Loloku Walania Kamakaʻeha, wore a solid gold bracelet of her own design to sit for an official engagement portrait. Liliʻuokalani, as she became known, had the bracelet inscribed with the Hawaiian phrase “Hoʻomanaʻo Mau,” meaning to remember always.

Over the ensuing years, the women in the queen’s inner circle began making their own versions of her 14-karat gold bracelet and passing them down through a matrilineal succession that continues to this day. Designed to be worn tight around the wrist, the vintage bracelets, known for their black enamel Gothic lettering, are the inspiration for a new fine jewelry brand called HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi, founded by Estes and Shaw. (Pronounced he-eh, the name is a Hawaiian verb meaning “to beautify” or “to make one’s manner or appearance distinctive, elegant or distinguished.”)

Meleana Estes and Noel Pietsch-Shaw

Both women grew up admiring the bracelets owned by their mothers and grandmothers. “I always knew when I was 16, I’d get my bracelet,” Estes, an Oahu-based stylist and influencer, tells Robb Report. “It was the bracelet my mom had been holding for me. It was made for her by my grandmother when I was born, with the intention of passing it on.”

Shaw, a luxury real estate agent who grew up in Honolulu, has a similar story: “Even though my mom is from the East coast, she married a Hawaiian and was gifted bracelets when her three kids were born,” she says. “That’s what was on mom’s arm. One had my sister’s Hawaiian name on it, one had my Hawaiian name and the other had my brother’s Hawaiian name.”

HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi Bracelet
HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi

When it came time for the women to purchase bracelets for their own children, however, they couldn’t find simple, flat gold styles like those that had been gifted to them. “We wanted to continue this tradition, but a lot of the guys who made ours had passed on,” says Estes. “People would stop me at least twice a week at, say, the dentist’s office. ‘Where you’d get yours?’ And I’d say, ‘They’re old style, I got them when I was born.’”

In 2019, the women, who both live in Honolulu, began sketching the beginnings of their own collection. One pandemic and countless hours later, HIE made its debut in late January.

HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi Bracelets
HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi Bracelets HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi

The collection, which is available online, at the new Ron Herman flagship boutique in Waikiki and at monthly trunk shows in Honolulu, includes nine styles of 14-karat yellow or rose gold bracelets in varying sizes (18-karat gold is available on request) priced from $3,200 to $5,900.

The styles include the Amelia Ana, which borrows its traditional look from the bracelet Estes received from her tūtū (grandmother) Amelia Ana Kaʻōpua Bailey; the 1881 Fleur de Lis, inspired by a rose gold bangle that Shaw inherited from her great-great-great-grandmother, a confidant of Queen Lili’uokalani; and a modernized diamond-decked style named Tūtū Leslie after Shaw’s late grandmother, Leslie Maunakapu Long Pietsch, who owned a similar bangle.

In addition to their vintage-inspired aesthetic, the HIE bracelets stand out because of their seductively sentimental qualities. Almost every piece is engravable—inside and out.

HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi Bracelet
HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi Bracelet HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi

“People know what to put on the front,” says Shaw. “It could be a name, a place, a saying in Hawaiian or English, it all depends on what you’ve gone through in life. But they have to get back to me about what to put on the inside. If I make a bracelet for my daughters, that’s a message they’ll have from mom forever.”

And forever is the point. Built without clasps or hinges, the bangles are designed to be slipped over a clenched fist and to remain there as a permanent ode to all of life’s greatest hits (and misses). That’s one reason Estes and Shaw chose to stick with traditional 14-karat gold, which is harder and therefore less susceptible to damage than higher-karat offerings.

HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi Bracelets
HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi Bracelets HIE Heirlooms of Hawaiʻi

“Women in Hawaii are really active,” says Estes. “We’re jumping in the ocean all the time, going for a hike, making a lei in our garden. We don’t take off our jewelry as much.

“They’re such a part of you, such a precious thing, and many women feel safer with them on their bodies,” Estes adds. “You have many pairs of earrings, but you only have one Hawaiian bracelet. They’re meant to wear with time, to collect your stories and your essence.”


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