Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kauai's jewels in the sand

It takes a keen eye, luck, and patience, but at several beaches on Kauai, fine jewelry quality shells are lying in the sand for the taking. The most expensive Hawaiian shells, the kahelelani shells come from the "Forbidden Island" of Ni'ihau (where only native Hawaiians live). Necklaces made of these shells by native artisans can fetch from $500 to $20,000, and are collected world wide.

Shells like Ni'ihau's (but not as lustrous) can be found on several beaches in Kauai, mainly at Anini Beach and "Charo's Beach," near the Hanalei Colony Resort on the north shore. Collectors comb the shoreline, commonly at the edge of the surf line, and focus all day for a precious handful. Larger and more classically shaped sunrise shells can be found at Charo's, and at Lumahai Beach, where high surf can add an element of danger to this quiet pastime.