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Let's Talk about Puka Shells

 

 Shop for Puka Shells on my website HERE. 

In 1974, everyone at my school had to have a Hawaiian puka shell necklace. It did not matter if you were a surfer ( I grew up in Southern California), if you wanted to be the coolest of the cool, you had to have a puka strand around your neck. It was customary to have it choker length. 

There are many fakes and pukas that man helped nature refine. I always watch for the good vintage strands. 

A bit of history on Pukas Shells:

The word "puka" means hole in Hawaiian. Puka shells start out as cone shells and with original natural pukas, the sea, sand and sun turn them into natural beads. Tumbling in the ocean and sand they become little disks with holes in the center and the sun bleaches them white.

 

 

Once these necklaces became very popular, shells that were not finished by nature were plucked from the shore and finished by man. When the pukas were gone, man harvested cone shells, ground, drilled and tumbled them. Then, other shells were used to make imitation pukas and ultimately plastic pukas were produced. Pukas were very popular in the 1970's but have been prized for 100's of years. Finding pukas of genuine cone shells is a challenge and finding pukas formed by nature is even more of a challenge. I am lucky to have a baggy full of natural puka shells that my sweetheart personally gathered on the beach in Hawaii in 1976. I use them for comparison in grading my vintage puka shell necklaces.

 

🌟 Update: May 26, 2017. As a result of this journal entry, I have been asked many times exactly how to tell if a puka shell necklace is real. 

Here are some tips:

💛  Look for a smooth dish shaped shell. One side will be concave. 

💛  Are there natural pits present in the outer surface of the shell?

💛  They are rarely uniform in shape. Even the best matched shells will have minor differences in shape and size. 

💛  Are they smooth to the touch? Are the edges smooth?

💛 Is there a ridge inside the concave side that spirals down to the hole?

Here are some close ups of Puka shells that were found on the beach in the late 1970s. 

 

 

I buy only genuine pukas , but will offer some that have human finishing. My prices reflect grade of shells.

Some prefer graduated strands:

 

And some prefer the well matched necklaces.

Some like the striped colored pukas:

 

 

 

It's kind of like pearls, but ultimately it's about what you prefer. Just know that I am always looking for the good strands. I like them plain, with coral and with turquoise.

 

This necklace is C. 1975 and Navajo. LOVE!!!

 

This choker is also Navajo with natural turquoise nugget beads.

If you are looking for your perfect strand you can check my inventory by clicking the photo below. Thanks for visiting!

 

And just for show-and-tell, this is my personal puka-shell necklace.(also pictured in part above.) It is Navajo, found in Arizona. I love the large shells. 

 

 

Update 10-20-17

This is a fresh estate find. These puka shells are totally natural with natural holes, pitting and bleached white from the sun. I love how the larger shells are turned to each other to form saucers. You can view it HERE.

Update 4-3-18

I just found this strand of 100% natural puka shells C. 1973. Learn more about them HERE. You'll see great photos of natural holes in the shells. Great specimens!

From my private collection take a look at the largest puka shells I have ever seen!

They are rough, but awesome!

Update: Just found two more great estate Puka Shell necklaces. You can find them in Necklaces or New Arrivals. 

Nice natural holes made by the ocean. 

See the natural holes and uneven edge from tumbling in the ocean? 

Update July 9, 2018. I am sorry that I sold out of Puka Shell necklaces last week. My daughter and I drove up the California coast to find more this weekend and here is what we found plus one anklet. You can shop for them here.

Very fine natural puka shells that I just found this weekend. Everything about them is perfect. They are shaped by the sea and sand, bleached by the sun and the holes were naturally formed by the ocean and sand. 

A closer look. 

That's all for now! I'll add more as I find them. This blog post has become a running post that is often updated as we have found a community of puka shell fans! 

Update 10-06-18

Here is one of the best necklaces that I have found in a long time. Learn more here.

If you are looking for pukas, you can click on any photo to shop my website

9-18-19

Just have to share this great find. These HUGE pukas are totally natural and measure from 13 mm to almost 19mm in diameter! Learn more about them HERE.

Large pukas from a personal collection. Whoa!

Update 5-15-20

I found these at an estate. This is the first puka shell necklace that I have seen with black coral disk bead spacers. Looks great! All three are available on my website now. 

19 Responses

Angel

Angel

August 28, 2021

Thanks man

Jerry

Jerry

May 16, 2018

FYI.. the Partridge family David Cassidy wore a Puka shell neckless. made it popular in the states..

Jerry

Jerry

May 16, 2018

Vintage leis past down from Tutu, we have several Paper shell leis & a 5 strand over 18" long, haven seen any in Honolulu craft fairs or antique shops, but seen 1 online for $150 a strand. what happened to all the paper shell leis? use to have lots, every aunty had some..

Linda

Linda

April 21, 2018

Teresa and Michele,
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. It sure helps!!!!

Linda

Linda

April 21, 2018

C.I. You can find me on facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Yourgreatfinds/ or at Linda@yourgreatfinds.net

Linda

Linda

April 21, 2018

Raquel, you can contact me and send to pictures at Linda@yourgreatfinds.net or you’ll find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Yourgreatfinds/

teresa

teresa

April 19, 2018

Did you know that on Ni’ihau, it wasn’t possible, with few flowers, to make flower leis? It’s too arid, being in the rain shadow of Kauai. Therefore, their leis were made of exquisite, teensy itsy bitsy shells (and maybe pukas too). There is a man who works @ PWF in Lahaina who has a passion for and extensive knowledge of the Ni’ihau necklaces / leis.

Raquel

Raquel

April 13, 2018

I have a very old necklace from the puka shells of Niiahu. I would like to get in touch with someone who could tell me more. I lived on Kauai years ago. My grandmother and mother both passed away there. The islands are a very special place.

C.I

C.I

March 26, 2018

I believe I have an authentic puka necklace I’ve had it since I was a kid…I’m in my 50’spare now.
How would I get this appraised?

Michele

Michele

March 06, 2018

Are you familiar with what we called paper shells? We picked them off the beach at Laie point on oahu’s North Shore in the mid-1970s. I think they’re also known as confetti shells or possibly sequin shells. They’re very very thin very brittle very very small extremely hard to see and they were extremely hard to string. My college roommate and I each have several strands and we have no way of figuring out what they could possibly be worth. I’ve searched the internet all over and cannot find any information. If you can help that would be great. I love all the Puka shell necklaces that I picked and strung for myself and friends and family in the 70s but these paper shells are some of my prized possessions.

Mark

Mark

March 04, 2018

Very nice work,looks vintage/cool

Mark

Mark

March 04, 2018

Very nice work,looks vintage/cool

hayley

hayley

December 30, 2017

Hi, i was wondering if you can tell me where I can buy Poka Shells necklaces? i’m in love with them but i want REAL ones . if you can , email me at hayley.liz.peterson@gmail.com with the website or store . AKA, I live in Minnesota .

Carol Myles

Carol Myles

November 05, 2017

Hi I was hoping to get your input on my vintage shell choker. To describe it, barrel clap, all beads are very similar in size. The shells are round, but not concave. All the shells are shades of cream, and and varying shades of tan to brown. I hope you can respond,because my boyfriend owned the necklace, but passed away in may, at the age of 68. He couldn’t remember where he got it, since he had had it for so long.

Yeshe

Yeshe

October 23, 2017

to Diana Ankeney

i would consider it a meaningful and auspicious
blessing if you were to consider
passing your Puka beads on to me : )
i live very close to nature (Nova Scotia) and would truly appreciate to receive your beads

you could contact me at
essence alchemy@gmail.com
if you were still looking for someone to pass these along to
thank you
Yeshe
October 24/2017

Pat

Pat

September 05, 2017

I have a puka shell necklace I bought in 1968. It is a real nice one. We are in Montana now and moving into assisted living. I would like to either sell or give this necklace to someone. What would you suggest? I would include a picture but didn’t see a way to do it.

Diana Ankeney

Diana Ankeney

June 19, 2017

I have a strand of pukas over 50 years old. Would like to pass on to someone who would appreciate them

Linda

Linda

January 04, 2017

Hi Shelli,
I am so sorry to take so long to reply. This system does not have a way for the blog owner to reply and I have been trying to find an app to make that work. I finally decided to reply as a reader. To answer your question, look at the holes with a jeweler’s loupe or a magnifying glass. If the hole edge is blunt and perfect, it is drilled. If it is not perfectly round and has a smooth edge that is somewhat rounded in shape, it’s natural. As far as being tumbled, they will be sunbleached and very smooth of tumbled by the sea, with wear from sand inside. The man tumbled stones are not as thin and rounded, if that makes sense. Linda

Shelli Broms

Shelli Broms

December 14, 2016

I have an old choker of " puka" beads/shells. They have the “spiral” going into the hole. I was wondering how to tell if the are natural or cone shells tumble by man.
How do you determine when making a purchase of real deal natural pukas for creating the authentic pieces?
Many thanks
Shelli

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