Niihau shell leis with sunrise shells by Rob Arita.  Hawaiian shell jewelry with niihau shells make beautiful gifts
Niihau shell leis with sunrise shells by Rob Arita
Niihau shell leis with sunrise shells by Rob Arita
100% Kauai Kahelelani with sunrise shell
100% Kauai Kahelelani with sunrise shell
Niihau shell leis from niihau shells
Niihau shell leis from niihau shells
Niihau shell leis from niihau shells
Niihau shell leis from niihau shells
100% Kauai Kahelelani with sunrise shell
100% Kauai Kahelelani with Oahu sunrise shell
Niihau shell leis from niihau shells

Niihau Shell Leis by Rob Arita

Welcome to Aloha Kahelelani!

Kahelelani are the tiniest and most prized of the Hawaiian shells that are sewn into leis. They are commonly referred to as Niihau shells but are actually one of the the three types that are used for making Hawaiian shell jewelry. The other two are laiki and momi, which are larger. In comparison, a double strand choker of kahelelani will require 600-700 shells as opposed to about 250 for a double strand of momi.

Kahelelani are found in varying degrees on most of the Hawaiian Islands, but are most abundant on Niihau and Kauai. They have been sewn into leis for centuries. I use only gem quality shells from Kauai and Niihau and each piece has precise origins of the shells used. If a lei is all Kauai shells, all Niihau shells, or a mixture, it will be labelled accordingly. A gem quality shell from Kauai has the same value as a gem quality Niihau shell as far as my pricing goes. As a comparison, and I think you will agree, 24 carat gold from California is equal in value to 24 carat gold from Oregon.

The niihau shell lei making process is tedious from start to finish. On a good day of shell picking, a skilled picker might harvest a film canister of prime quality kahelelani shells in about four hours. All this time is spent on hands and knees or lying in the sand. People frequently ask if I go out and just scoop up the shells. They are always shocked when they learn that they are collected one at a time.

The best beaches produce kahelelani in a full range of colors including tan, light pink, hot pink, red, burgundy, brown, and olive green which is more abundant on Niihau than Kauai. Kamoa is a yellow to gold turban shell that is similar to kahelelani, but grown much larger. Only the juveniles can be sewn into leis, usually as accents.

Once the shells are collected, they must be sorted by size and color. The most difficult job is cleaning the aperture of the shell which is almost always clogged with a piece of sand, shell or coral. Finally, the shells are pierced and strung.

Sewing lei kahelelani is a spiritual endeavor requiring endless patience and love. We pray for the shells to wash up on the beaches, acknowledging their magic and beauty, realizing their integral part in our chain of life on this planet. This intention creates pieces that carry this aloha to the people who wear them- a prayer in a strand, reminding us of ways that are being forgotten in our technological world.

My name is Rob Arita and I am the exclusive maker of the niihau shell leis that are showcased on this site. Aloha kahelelani is dedicated to preserving the ancient Hawaiian art of shell lei making. My specialty is lei kahelelani poepoe which is sewn round or as a kahelelani rope. All of the pieces are of museum quality and custom orders are always welcome. Enjoy looking at the photos of our finest pieces taken by my wife Lisa Seed!

Click through the photos on this web site to see niihau shell leis, sunrise shell necklaces, lei Kahelelani, and niihau shell jewelry.

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