Historic Hawaiian Heirloom Jewelry

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - December 12, 2007
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Phillip Rickard at work
Phillip Rickard at work

Lots of aloha is about to be spread around the islands as Phillip Rickard is working on opening his eighth Philip Rickard Honolulu location, which will showcase wedding rings, in Ala Moana Center.

“When people have Hawaiian jewelry they feel like they relate,” says Rickard. “It (the jewelry) is a relationship between people and Hawaii. It carries aloha with it.”

The Oregon-born jeweler has 70 workers in Hawaii and five based in the Japan customer service and manufacturing location. He has one website in English and another in Japanese, while Spanish and Chinese sites are in development.

Rickard also is in the middle of his two-year term as president of the 250-member Hawaii Jewelers Association.

His company makes Hawaiian heirloom jewelry as well as wedding rings, pendants and more. Some of his jewelry also shows a hint of color, including pink and green.

“It is such a wide niche market,” says Rickard. “People who buy the Hawaiian heirloom jewelry are kids, married couples, older people and hula groups. It’s all across the board, not just one group. If someone gets a ring, then they will come back to get the bracelet, and then they’ll be back to get the necklace.”

At first, Rickard intended to present a short history on the Hawaiian heirloom jewelry with his sales.

“I thought it would be a foldover (pamphlet),” recalls Rickard. “I had been told that Britain’s Queen Victoria gave the gift to Liliuokalani, and I told that to my customers. As it turns out that’s not what really happened. After six years of research to find out what the story was, I had fallen in love with the history of it.”

Instead of a foldover pamphlet, the research hound published a hardcover book with Henry Bennett, titled A Lasting Remembrance, in 1993 that explains the history of Hawaiian jewelry. Photos from the Bishop Museum dispelled the original story that was circulating in the Hawaiian heirloom jewelry business. As it turns out, Princess Liliuokalani had the English-style mourning jewelry at least 20 years before she traveled to England in 1887 to attend Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, where the gift of the bracelet was supposed to have happened. This English-style mourning jewelry with a phrase in black lettering and ornate designs became quite fashionable. One of Liliuokalani’s two bracelets bore the phrase Ho’omanao Mau, which means “a lasting remembrance.” Rickard also translated the symbols on the bracelet into a prayer, “Always remember that guidance from above protects me and those I protect by my good judgment and love of perfection, light and life, for I am royalty.” The other bracelet had R. Naiu on it, which Rickard says means “royalty, the lofty ones.”

His firm also reproduces a museum-quality replica of the Aloha Oe bracelet - Queen Liliuokalani gave this bracelet as a gift to royal event planner Zoe Atkinson - which is on display at Bishop Museum.

“I fell in love with Hawaii,” says Rickard, who moved here more than 30 years ago after working in Florida diving to the wrecks of Spanish galleons. He started out in Hawaii working in construction. “Construction is making something. It’s just like jewelry, only smaller. Jewelry consumed me.”

Rickard opened a kiosk at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center in 1986. He worked 14-hour days selling and making jewelry. That kiosk has been going strong ever since.

The company was named Resort Retail Business of the Year at the 2007 Hookela Awards from the Retail Merchants of Hawaii. Rickard says he is quite thrilled that singer Gwen Stefani wears his jewelry and that he had the chance to custom design some bracelets for her L.A.M.B fashion label this year.

The company’s presence in Waikiki includes three locations at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center: the original kiosk, a third-floor factory/showroom, and a gallery on the ground floor. Rickard has stores on the first and second floors of the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort, one at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Kalia Tower, and one at Ala Moana Center next to Centerstage.

A self-proclaimed workaholic, Rickard appreciates the support and love of his girlfriend, Gosia. He enjoys walking with his family and going to trade shows in places like Hong Kong, Venice and Switzerland, and making that a vacation. He has four children: Samantha, Ken, Auriel and Aiala.

For more information, call 924-7972, or log onto philiprickardhonolulu.com


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