An adolescent Vicente Agor lived in Hawaii for five years, instilling in him memories of the beautiful island and some of its culture. Included in that history is h?k?le?a, a 2,000-year-old tale of how the first Hawaiians—Polynesians traveling by double-hulled sailing canoe from Tahiti—arrived at the islands. It’s also the name of Agor’s newest jewelry collection, which was unveiled at Couture last month.
According to the Polynesian Voyaging Society, h?k?le?a means star of gladness and speaks to that fantastic story of the birth of the Hawaiian people. This story was revisited in 1975 when artist Herb Kawainui K?ne, the founder of PVS, embarked on a ceremonial canoe journey to commemorate the island’s ancestors.
“I think the idea behind what had happened was that in the 1970s, the Hawaiian people had become a caricature in hula skirts and loud printed dress shirts, and this voyage was empowering to the people,” recollects Agor. “It reminded them that they had the wherewithal to navigate the oceans and use natural elements to sail these long distances. And the interesting thing in my mind is that it motivated an entire generation to believe ‘you are greater than what you have been told.’ ”
This story simmering in the back of Agor’s mind was brought to the forefront by a series of races that took place in San Francisco in 2013 for the 34th America’s Cup and again when he stumbled upon a special piece of Australian boulder opal at the Tucson gem shows. “When I saw the opal in Tucson, I saw this small mark on it that looked like a surfer, and I said, ‘This is the sign that we’re going to do it, using elements from Swell,’ ” he explains. H?k?le?a was a natural transition from Agor’s Swell collection, which is inspired by the ocean.
So with that Surfer pendant necklace as H?k?le?a’s starting point, Agor added 29 more SKUs—a mix of one-offs and production pieces—made in 18k gold and silver with 18k gold. Designs speak to more sea themes (think sailboats) and the sun, iconic symbols of island life. Other stones used include sapphires, turquoise, and diamonds, and styles also include brooches, which will be important for fall 2015. There is no official buy-in, though Agor strives to have a representative collection in stores. Pieces ship in September, and retail prices in the silver-and-gold mix start at $750.
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