LEI DESCRIPTION: This is a 37" 3-strand pikake style onikiniki (brown striped momi) shell lei. The onikiniki shells are in the medium to dark intensity range for the shell type. The darker and more pronounced the coloration and makings are within each momi type, the more sought after and valuable the shells become. The shells on all three strands and graduated from slightly smaller at the top to larger at the base. "Momi" (dove shell) stands for pearl in Hawaiian and refers to the shiny reflective nature of the outside of the shells, which reflect light like a pearl. The highest quality and most reflective of the shells are found on the beaches of Ni'hihau. One of the main reasons the best quality shells are found on Ni'ihau is the fact that there is very little fresh water intrusion (rivers, streams...) that feed into the ocean around Ni'ihau, or even that much rain. The coating on the shells that give them their luster is susceptible to fresh water, which is why it is important to never clean a Ni'ihau lei with fresh water. The luster of the shells show that they are authentic shells from the private island of Ni'ihau. At least 80% of the shells have to come from the island to be considered a true Ni'ihau shell lei. In this case 100% of the shells come from Ni'ihau. This lei looks to have been strung between the 1960's and the 1970's. This lei contains around 1,596 shells but in reality would have take many more shells to make, depending on the number of shells that broke in the process of preparing them for stringing. Each shell has to be cleaned of sand and punctured by hand. Since the shells only come to shore in greater numbers during the winter months, a lei of this size would take a single person a long time to collect enough matched shells to create.
LEI CONDITION: This is a very nice example of a Ni'ihau pikiake style 3-strand lei. The graduation of the shells from smaller at the top to larger at the base is very well executed. There is a stunning luster to the shells. The matching of the shell pairs in the pikake style was well done on all of the strands. There were a few darker momi shells mixed. There are also some slightly mismatched shell pairs where a smaller shell is matched with a larger shell in the pikake style. This lei is traditionally and correctly strung: one direction for the first half, and the opposite direction for the second half of each strand. You string the shells this way so that they will always be facing the same direction on both sides when worn, traditionally with the large part of the shell facing up. This lei was finished with a traditional granulated cowrie (white cowrie with little bumps or ridges over the top) that has been used as a traditional closure for the lei for a very long time. This lei was finished with a single cowrie shell because the strands are long enough to go directly over the head, and is properly done for a lei of this length. The granulated cowrie are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Overall this is a very nice example of a Ni'ihau pikake style lei.
Size: 37" long.
Price: $7,200.00 USD