About the Shells

The shells found on my leis are found on the islands of Maui and Kaua‘i. You will find a number of different shell varieties in my leis. The main ingredient are the shells knows as “pukas”. Puka means hole in Hawaiian, and many of the puka shells are found with natural holes in the center and are ready to string up. Pukas originally start as one of the many varieties of a cone shell (Conidae family). These shells are occupied by mollusks who live their life out on the reefs eating other mollusks, worms, and even fish. When the mollusk inside the shell dies, the turbulent Hawaiian waters sometimes take it and tumble it in the sand and rocks. Eventually the shell loses its point, then the sides wear away, until eventually only the flat head is left, and you have yourself a puka! I also use whole cone shells in some of my leis, as well as various cowries and sometimes other Hawaiian shells.


The Lei Process

Each lei starts with looking for shells on the beaches of Hawai‘i. Sometimes shells are found more easily than other times, as beaches produce them according to location, season, ocean swell and the proximity and abundance of coral reef. Once I find the shells, I pick the best ones out. The best pukas are naturally polished by the ocean waves, have a natural hole right in the center of the shell, and do not have any major blemishes on it. In my experience, it’s easier to come by white pukas, while purple, brown and other colored pukas are rarer and more coveted. Some pukas are found in beautiful condition but don’t have a natural puka, so they need to be individually drilled. From there, I consider each design individually, and for most designs, I graduate the shells from largest to smallest. It’s a time intensive but rewarding process.

Graduated pukas waiting to be strung


Lei Hardware

I use high quality and durable materials for my hardware, and sometimes create my own custom wire-wrap loops. The material used for the string is called “Softflex” and it will naturally stretch and loosen slightly over time. I wear my own puka leis every day while swimming and doing other outdoor activities and have never had one break on me. Some of my leis come with extensions so you can choose the length that fits you best. If you use a shorter setting, and don’t care for the left over extensions, simply cut them off with snips.

Snip off extensions if they are undesirable


The Competition

You can find factory made puka leis in many shops for $10 or less. If you compare them to my leis, you can see the difference in quality. Most of these shells are harvested or produced in massive quantities in developing nations and lacquered to give them an artificial shine. There are also many people in the Hawaiian Islands who make beautiful handmade puka leis, but I have seldom seen any as unique and high quality as my own.


Pricing My Leis:

I price my leis based on the time and effort I put into them, but mostly based on the quantity, quality and rarity of the shells used.


Contact Me

I’m always thrilled to get feedback and questions regarding my work. Also contact me to shorten, lengthen and repair leis upon request.

808-572-1963 •