PHOTOS BY DENNIS ODA / firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many gemstone, bead, pearl and shell options offered during daily walk-in jewelry-making sessions at Lucoral Museum.
The great outdoors can be overrated when it comes to dealing with insects, mud and the occasional helicopter rescue.
But, there is a way to explore in the heart of Waikiki, in the safety of the indoors and the sanctity of air conditioning.
At Lucoral Museum in Waikiki, owner Flora Lu has built an indoor cave reminiscent of lava tubes to house displays of rocks, minerals and ocean treasures as a reminder to care for the planet that, in turn, provides for us.
Visitors can take a self-guided stroll through the museum in a half hour, but some will spend an entire afternoon browsing Lu’s jewelry creations or sitting in her workroom during walk-in, make-and-take jewelry sessions, stringing semi-precious gemstones, pearls and shells into bracelets, at $10 per bracelet.
If it’s a necklace you want, the base cost is $10 plus $1 per inch for every inch over 8 inches, so a 16-inch necklace would be $18. An 18-inch necklace would be $20.
Private parties can also be arranged for girls night out getogethers and other special occasions.
Flora Lu welcomed members of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, when they were in town for the Hawaii Ukulele Festival July 19.
For Lu, a wholesale jeweler, building the museum was a way of engaging with the public, and reminding children to appreciate nature’s gifts. It’s her way of giving back out of gratitude for the blessings in her own life, starting when she was a child growing up on Penghu Island, or Pescadores as named by the Spanish, a fisherman’s island off the coast of Taiwan.
In 1963, Typhoon Gloria hit, destroying all the fishing boats, and with them, the island’s industry and her family’s 10-generation livelihood.
She is the seventh of 11 children, and said, “Everyone have different ideas of what my parents could do. One said open a barber shop. Our neighbor was a shell manufacturer who saw that my parents have so many kids so taught us how to polish and cut shells and drill holes. That’s how I got started, at 10 years old.”
Before sitting down to string bracelets, visitors to Lucoral Museum are welcome to explore its manmade cave housing minerals, fossils, stones, coral and other natural formations. Flora Lu plays tour guide to Johnny Chang's Johnny Ukulele group from Taiwan.
Accustomed to the abundance of the ocean, she said prior to the typhoon, fishermen regarded the shells as worthless.
“People would eat the shellfish meat, and the leftover shell we would dump into the ocean,” she said. “After the typhoon, it turned into treasure. Abalone shell became like gold."
In five years time, the Pescadores fishing industry rebounded, and with her family’s future secure, Lu moved to Taipei with two of her sisters, where she continued to develop her jewelry business. She moved to Hawaii in 1982, and opened Lucoral Museum in 1989 to share her passion and attendant messages of education, self-motivation, conservation and respect for nature's many gifts.
Her displays include a 145 million-year-old dinosaur egg, and 30 million-year-old fossilized fish, but much of what is displayed are reminders of how much Hawaii has lost over two centuries, such as calcite and stalacite caves and quarries lost to development, Kaneohe Bay clams, and the pearl oysters that gave Pearl Harbor its name.
Members of the Langley Ukulele Ensemble wear and show their finished bracelets. From left are Joseph Chang, Kashmir Penko, Beulah Lee and Eva Bellevontaine. The wrist in the foreground belongs to Tracy Mendonca.
PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / email@example.com
Fossilized fish is one of the Lucoral Museum displays.
Fluorite on display.
Coral pieces for jewelry making.
Lu was named Mother of the Year 2011-‘12 by the United Chinese Society, but her mothering extends beyond her three children to all the youngsters who pass through her museum, many through school excursions.
“Teaching and education are very important. I often wonder what would have happened to me if my neighbor didn’t help us.
“Now, I see the homeless and so many kids living on the street and wonder if I can help them. Maybe if I collect shells from restaurants’ leftovers I could teach them to polish and buy it from them. Sharing my technique is something I could do because other people taught me ‘to fish’ so I could survive.”
Amethysts, and below, shells, for jewelry making.
During a private party, I created this scary looking coral piece, and a necklace of shells and amethyst beads.
Lucoral Museum is at 2414 Kuhio Avenue and is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. Admission is free. To book private jewelry parties, call (808) 922-1999.
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.