Concierge.com's insider take:
If you're looking for a significant keepsake from Hawaii, one that won't lose its value and could possibly become an heirloom, consider investing in some traditional Hawaiian adornments.
The shiny gold nameplate necklaces, rings, and bracelets with ornate enamel lettering that you see on the locals may look like hip-hop bling, but they have their roots in 19th-century England. Known as Hawaiian Heritage Jewelry, the style became fashionable in the islands after the last reigning monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, received a bracelet like this from Queen Victoriathen began giving away similar pieces herself. The classic look—yellow gold with black enamel lettering—was originally reserved for periods of mourning. Now, it's ubiquitous, but you can also opt for a variation on the style in platinum or white, pink, or green gold and have your name emblazoned in pink, white, blue, or green enamel lettering. If you don't have a Hawaiian name, use the old Missionary trick of translating your given name into Hawaiian. But you might just want to default to the classic "Kuuipo," meaning "sweetheart." Prices range from $150 upward, and sources include several well-known jewelry stores: Try Na Hoku (3750 Wailea Alanui; 808-891-8040; www.nahoku.com). Pawn shops are also good places to look, if you don't mind a secondhand piece.
Even more collectable are Niihau shell leis, made of microsize shells (fewer than 5 millimeters across) found on the completely isolated, privately owned island of Niihau. A multistrand lei can cost upward of $10,000, but buyers should keep in mind that this sort of piece takes three to five years to painstakingly complete by hand; what's more, the leis are critical to the survival of Niihau's 160 inhabitants, and the amount of quality shells washing ashore is dwindling due to changes in climate and ocean conditions. Kahelelani shells—the only ones gemologists will grade and appraise for insurance purposes—are the most prized and range in color from soft pink to deep brown. Authenticity is an issue, but you can buy with confidence from reputable galleries like Maui Hands (612 Front St., Lahaina; 808-667-9898; www.mauihands.com).
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