Frequently Asked Questions
Where are 'Alohi Kai products made?
‘Alohi Kai jewelry is all made by hand in the breezy mountains on O’ahu, Hawaii. We do make nearly everything by hand, but on occasion we use pre-formed earwires and some very small findings; these are all purchased from US companies.
What materials are used to make 'Alohi Kai jewelry?
Jewelry: Since our jewelry is all designed and made by hand, we ensure the highest quality materials are used. All jewelry is made from pure sterling silver (usually Argentium for fabrication; if Argentium is unavailable in a form then we use high quality .925 sterling silver. We use Argentium or low-tarnish sterling for castings), and fine silver. Some customers want a non-tarnish finish, in which case a lovely Rhodium plate for white (part of the platinum family of metals, and very durable) and 18K gold vermeil for yellow are our choices, both are durable and beautiful finishes.
Findings: Some of our earwires are titanium, but the vast majority are sterling silver – this will be stated on the product page. The only nickel we use are in tie tacks which have a post with some nickel – but this doesn’t touch the skin. (check out “What is sterling? below, and our blog for more information on different metals.)
Stones: Most of our stones are natural, however on occasion we will use lab-created stones; these will always be clearly identified in the product description. We do include lab-created stones for their lower ecological impact, but also for their clarity and beauty! They are molecularly identical to a natural stone, only without the inclusions.
Shells: We do not ever use shells in our jewelry; our seashells are always made from metal. No creatures are harmed to make our products; if we use a shell to make a cast from, we exclusively use shells we find ourselves and can verify they are empty before use.
Leather & Microfibre: We use leather for some of our necklaces and for the Barbless Circle Hook (BCH) jewelry. Our 5mm leather is cowhide, the 3mm leather is deerskin, and we also have a 3mm vegan microfibre option. We are able to source rubber on request.
What is Sterling? What is Argentium? What is Fine Silver?
Fine silver is silver in its pure form, 99.9%. This is quite a soft and beautiful metal, but is too soft to use in jewelry. Jewelry and other items are usually made with sterling, which is much stronger due the mix of metals.
Sterling silver is an alloy of metals, primarily consisting of fine silver. To qualify as sterling silver, the metal must be at least 92.5% fine/pure silver (hence the “.925” stamped on our jewelry). For most sterling the remainder is copper, which gives it strength on one hand, but also is the cause of tarnish. The silver we source is nearly entirely reclaimed/recycled.
Argentium is a beautiful kind of sterling silver, whiter and brighter in color, so closer to the color of fine silver. Its fine silver content is higher (.935) and has a bit of germanium added instead of all copper. The resulting metal gives us a lower tarnish, brighter colored sterling. It is trickier to work with and costs a shade more so not all jewellers use it. See our blog post for more information about silver. The other added benefit to using argentium is that it is always made from reclaimed silver.
Can I have it in a different metal?
We are happy to discuss! We make our jewelry in sterling, with the option for thick rhodium plate or 18K vermeil. For items we don’t stock as standard, there may be an additional service charge for gold or rhodium. Should you want a solid gold or platinum piece (cast or chain maille), please contact us on phone or email to discuss, it can be arranged, and will depend upon the market price of the requested metal.
At this time we do not work with base metals.
Do you do custom/bespoke work?
Yes we do, some of these are found in the gallery. Please contact us with any requests! However please note, custom work will always require more labor than existing products; a new piece for a one-off piece requires design, prototyping, carving, and only then casting, finishing and polishing, many more hours than it takes to cast and finish an existing design.
How do you make your jewelry?
Our jewelry designs come from our experiences underwater – they usually begin with a dive and taking underwater photos. Once a design is conceived, sketches, mockups and prototypes are made so we are confident the jewelry will be both balanced and comfortable!
Our jewelry is made the “slow way” – we use a very hard kind of jewelry wax and carve or sculpt it to produce a master model. The master is painstakingly refined then cast in sterling silver. The master is destroyed in this process; if anything goes wrong, an entirely new carving must be made.
Once the master casting is finished, it is ground, polished and in some cases, soldered to its final form. We make a mold of it, and from this we can then make replicas. Each replica wax model usually requires subsequent cleaning attention as a wax and also after casting in metal. Then it is cast, ground, polished and finished. If the piece includes gemstones, this is when they are set – stones are always the last thing to be done.
Some castings are used to fabricate jewelry such as in our Zoanthid necklaces, others are polished and finished as the final piece, like our shark pendants.
Will you ship to my country?
We will ship to most places, please contact us with requests. Please also read our shipping policies – these will apply to all places we ship to.
What is Vermeil?
Vermeil is a legally regulated term. The US Code of Federal Regulations (16, Part 23.5) defines Vermeil: “A product may be described or marked as ‘vermeil’ if it consists of a base of sterling silver coated or plated on all significant surfaces with gold or gold alloy of not less than 10 karat fineness, that is of substantial thickness and a minimum thickness throughout equivalent to two and one half (2½) microns.
What does that all mean?
- Unlike gold fill, vermeil jewelry *must* start as a sterling silver piece before plating. Gold fill is not only a different process of adhering gold, it can have any metal as its base (e.g. brass or other non-precious metal with a layer of gold)
- The gold must be a specified thickness. 2.5 microns of gold over the silver is much thicker gold than standard plating. Some plating is as thin as 1 micro inch, so standard vermeil is at least 100x thicker than a thin plating of gold. Ours is thicker than 2.5 microns.
- Also the gold cannot be less than 10K. Our vermeil is 18K vermeil to ensure its a rich deep gold color.
To give you an idea of relative thicknesses, compare
|1 micro inch||1 millionth of an inch||.0254 microns|
|1 mm||1 thousandths of an inch||25.4 microns|
|1 micron||40 micro inches||1 millionth of a meter|
|FTC classification||micro inches||microns|
|Gold Flash (10 kt.)||7.0 micro-inches||.175 microns|
|Gold Electroplate||7.0 micro-inches||.175 microns|
|Gold Plate||20 micro-inches||.50 microns|
|Heavy Gold Plate||100 micro-inches||2.5 microns|
How do I take a measurement?
Wrist measurements: For custom bracelets such as a barbless circle hook bracelet, we will need your actual wrist size. The easiest way to do it is to use a tape measure. Take the measurement right where the overlap happens, that is your wrist size! We will size the bracelet to fit you. However, for bracelets that come in set sizes, such as the Zoanthid link bracelets, we give you the length, and you determine which you prefer – again, we recommend a tape measure. Just measure your wrist and note the difference between the length. As a general rule, an additional +1/2″ would be a close fitting but not tight bracelet, while +1″ is the usual loose bracelet sizes you see.
Ring measurements: We’ve all seen ring sizers. However what you many not realise, most ring sizers can vary from each other by quite a lot! The only way to get the right fit is if the jeweler and the customer use the same set of measuring tools. So the safest way to send us your ring size is to measure your finger in millimetres. One easy way is to use dental floss, mark the overlap, then measure the length. Make sure you measure the largest part of your finger too! Low-tech, but it works. And do be sure not to make the mistake of leaving a gap ‘so its not tight’ – we make the ring to fit the size you give us, if you leave a gap, it will be quite large!
Necklace measurements: Necklace lengths are really a personal preference. Please to check what length you prefer on yourself! Generally speaking, 16″ is a choker, 18-20″ are necklaces, and 30-36″ are long. But this can vary greatly by your size and bone structure. Our standard lengths are 16″ 18″ and 30″, but we can often accommodate 20″ – 36″ on some chains if you prefer. For longer chains, there may be a surcharge.
Custom necklaces – as with rings, if we are making a custom necklace and ask for your neck measurement, use a tape measure and give us your actual neck measurement.
Can I get a smaller/bigger shark/turtle/dolphin?
Our pieces are all hand-carved and made without the benefit of computers. In other words, they are made by hand. Most large jewelry and chain stores make their jewelry with the help of CAD – computer-aided design – this is fairly standard in diamond rings for example. They model a design on the computer and print a form to be cast, or in some cases print the actual jewelry! This speeds up the production, and lowers costs. We don’t believe this is good or bad, just different – a different kind of jewelry.
We do things the ‘slow’ way, using carving tools and flame to carve and sculpt our pieces before casting in sterling. But as there is no computer file, a smaller or bigger design requires an entirely new carving. Please note, this is different from a ring or necklace or bracelet size, which we are generally able to do. But if you really do love something that is the wrong dimensions for you, talk to us about a custom piece, or, if this is out of your budget, tell us anyway! We listen to our customers and your wish may be next season’s new item.
What is Slow Fashion?
Influenced by the ‘Slow Food’ movement, the term “Slow Fashion” was coined by Kate Fletcher, from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. It stands for a more conscientious way of both producing and consuming goods, inviting conversation from all aspects of production on how we can do better.
“The fashion industry is contributing to today’s sustainability challenge in a number of ways. It currently uses a constant flow of natural resources to produce ‘Fast Fashion’ garments. In the way it operates, this industry is constantly contributing to the depletion of fossil fuels, used, for example, in textile & garment production and transportation. Fresh water reservoirs are also being increasingly diminished for cotton crop irrigation. The fashion industry is also introducing in a systematic way, and in ever-greater amounts, manmade compounds such as pesticides and synthetic fibres, which increases their persistent presence in nature. As a result, some natural resources are in jeopardy and forests and ecosystems are being damaged or destroyed for such things as fibre production, leading to issues such as droughts, desertification and not least, climate change, that are affecting society at large.” – Not Just a Label
Slow Fashion tries to claw back a bit of what we have lost, an attempt to rebalance and find the ‘right’ pace, and create connections lost in today’s faster world.
“Slow Fashion is the movement of designing, creating, and buying … for quality and longevity. Slow fashion encourages slower production schedules, fair wages, lower carbon footprints, and (ideally) zero waste.” – Study New York
What about 'Alohi Kai is Slow Fashion?
Our Slow Fashion Values
There are too many related areas to cover exhaustively here, but among other things, we believe in
- seeing connections – how our actions affect others (sustainability, non-toxic processes)
- reducing consumption – purchase better quality less frequently, discard less
- respecting all people – support living wages, respect peoples’ rights
- recognising the humanity in what we make – tell stories behind products, understand who makes them and why
- building relationships, not just a businesses
- innovating and using local materials when possible – reduce carbon footprints
- preserving quality and beauty via timeless and solid design, not passing trends
- recognising the need for profitability – quality and conscientiousness won’t come cheaply, and producers must make a living to continue to offer these products.
At ‘Alohi Kai we’re fans of slow fashion; quality is more important than quantity to us. We make things in small batches, ensuring they are done right so they last a very long time. We design from the sea, not from the current season or other designers. And our ambition is that you are delighted with your jewelry not just at purchase, but every time you wear our products. We stand by our work. We don’t cut corners on production and use high quality raw materials like Argentium sterling and 18K gold. And our designs are timeless; we believe that beauty and quality don’t go out of fashion.
But its not all about the look for us either. To us slow fashion also means using re-usable packaging, eco-friendly processes, biodegradable plastic bags, and sustainably produced metals. We source metal carefully and try to use recycled silver as much as possible. We also reuse the plastic bubble wrap that is sent to us and don’t purchase it ourselves. Generally, we really try to think about how we do things and how they impact other people and the environment.
Slow Fashion is not about ending consumption or business (that would be bad news for us!), nor about substituting inferior things for what we have now. Slow Fashion, like Slow Food, is instead about awareness, reflection and prioritisation. Its a good time to rebalance, and savour what we have; in the process we can help to ensure there is some left for the next generation.
Please also see our 3-part blog series on living slow.