Hawaiian/Polynesian Tattoo Jewelry


Many years before we moved to Hawaii, I had developed a complete love and admiration for the Hawaiian/Polynesian history and culture. In Hawaii, although the alii or royalty, embraced most things western, contact with Westerners started an almost complete decline in the Hawaiian culture. Hawaiians are experiencing a reemergence of their rich culture, including their language, navigation, hula and tattoo.

Hawaiian and Polynesian style tattoos are symbols that have deep and personal meanings for the wearer. Even though I consider myself too old and too haoli to have a Polynesian tattoo, I love the beauty and symbolism of the designs and wanted to incorporate them into my jewelry. Before I did, however, I talked with a Hawaiian friend to see if this would be offensive in the culture. He stated that it is good when the wearer knows what he/she is wearing. In other words, don’t wear a design because it looks pretty. Wear it because the design means something to you and know what you are wearing.

With this in mind, I have designed jewelry with meaningful symbolism to me. I explain every symbol on every piece of jewelry I make.

Many thanks to The Polynesian Tattoo Today and Tattoo Traditions of Hawaii by Tricia Allen, The Hawaiian Tattoo by P.F. Kwiatkowski , Hawaiian Petroglyphs by J. Halley Cox and The Polynesian Tattoo by TattooTribes.com.

If you have an idea for a custom design, please contact me

How the Jewelry is Made

To achieve the tattoo design in silver, I use photo software to isolate the tattoo image, turning it into a black and white negative. I then transfer this image into graphic design software to ready the image to be etched into the silver. No matter how much help I get from the computer, every piece is handmade, one-at-a-time.

My Polynesian tattoo jewelry is made from 96.5% silver which is a higher silver content than sterling. It is made from precious metal clay which is microscopic bits of silver in a binder. I hand form the jewelry, etch the design, form the bail as needed, attach the embellishments and then fire in a kiln. After the piece is fired, I polish and burnish the piece. Most pieces have a patina applied to darken the etched areas.

May the wearer always feel the love, uniqueness and spirit I put into every piece I make.

The Designs and Their Meanings

My jewelry uses symbols that may have several meanings. I have listed the meaning(s) that the symbol represents to me. These are modern interpretations of mostly Polynesian designs.

Symbol Meaning
Birds - ising above earthly problems
Canoe - generosity
Enata or human figure. Several in a curve represent the sky, or ancestral protection.
Fish - abundance
Fish scales – protection
Hibiscus – beauty, passion
Lizard – good luck and survival
Marquesan cross – eternal harmony, especially with nature
Mountain or island
Plumeria - beauty, love
Shark teeth - protection, strength
Sun – renewal, prosperity
Tiare or pikake – beauty and grace
Sea turtle or honu - family, long life, travel
Waves, Ocean – continuity, the next life
Whale – family, nurturing