Olopua Calabash Keychain

May 2023
Olopua, jade, sterling silver, Beadalon®

A friend came to me for a Mother's Day gift for his wife that would speak to her AAPI ancestry as well as to their daughter, Olive. His wife is ethnically Chinese by way of Kauai, so we wanted to include both Asian and Hawaiian cultural references in the piece.

The centerpiece of this key chain is the calabash gourd bead, which I had custom turned by a local woodworker in Honolulu. As a nod to their daughter and their Hawai‘i origins, the bead is made from olopua wood which is an endemic Hawaiian olive species (the olives are not edible, unfortunately).The calabash is an important part of both Chinese and Hawaiian cultures. In China, the gourds were used as water bottles for travelers, and gourd charms were believed to keep children healthy. In modern times, their shape is reminiscent of the numeral 8 which is good luck in China. In Hawaii, the gourd is frequently used to make ‘umeke (serving bowls) and is therefore a symbol of family and plenty; larger gourds are used to make ipu, a foundational percussive instrument in traditional Hawaiian music.