See Iolani Palace’s Hidden Relics That Once Belonged to Hawaiian Royalty

In a hidden chamber lies artifacts and treasures of a bygone era, undisplayed in the resplendent Iolani Palace.
Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino

The camera’s light flashes. White gloved hands shift King Kalakaua’s pipe ever so slightly. Beside us is a room filled with relics, not often seen on display. Having belonged to Hawaii’s kings, queens and noble people, these are no ordinary antiques. Every delicate piece comes with a story, bringing history to life. Take a look at some of Iolani Palace’s most private artifacts.

A walrus tusk pendant, once owned by Queen Kapiolani.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Traditional Lei Niho Palaoa

Belonging to Queen Kapiolani, wife to King David Kalakaua, a lei niho palaoa (ivory pendant) is typically worn by alii (chiefs) to signify their noble birth and status. Made with a walrus tusk and suspended by human hair, lei niho palaoa were originally made from whale bone or tooth.


The decorative pillow sham inherited by Princess Abigail Kawananakoa.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Queen Kapiolani’s Pillow Sham

One of four different color combinations of pillow shams in the palace’s collection that feature Queen Kapiolani’s crest, this was previously owned by Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, who was born in 1882 to James Campbell and Abigail Bright. After the deaths of her husband, Prince David Kawananakoa, and brother-in-law, Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, Kawananakoa became a leader of the Native Hawaiian people. The pillow sham was given to her by her husband who inherited it from his aunt, Queen Kapiolani.

Lei poo were the prized adornment of high ranking Hawaiian women.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Two Feather Lei Poo

Featuring red iiwi (scarlet honeycreeper) feathers and the yellow feathers of the now extinct oo (black honeyeater), these lei poo (head lei), were the prized adornment of high ranking Hawaiian women and were the only feather accessories in the kapu system, the ancient Hawaiian order of laws and regulations.


Inside this red bible lies a family record written by Queen Kapiolani herself.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Red Bible

Published in 1868 and made of Moroccan leather with a gilt design, this book includes the Old Testament and the New Testament. Between the two sections is a family record written by Queen Kapiolani herself.


The ancient game of Konane was played on this portable board.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Portable Konane Board

With its age and owner unknown, this konane board served as an essential piece in the ancient Hawaiian strategy game that resembles checkers. Originally played on lava rocks with small pockets carved into them for spaces, konane is a pastime invented long before contact with western civilization and is still played today.


The identities of the three women on the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Necklace remains unknown.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Necklace

This gold chained necklace features the silhouette of three unidentified women with seven gold beads interspersed. The necklace was worn by Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the founder of Kamehameha Schools and whose noble lineage traces back to the ruling monarchs of Maui.


Queen Liliuokalani handwriting can be seen on the boarders of the page.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Hawaiian History Puke (Book)

This book published in 1891 was once owned by Queen Liliuokalani, the last ruling monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and was written by W. D. Alexander, a surveyor general employed by the provisional government. In a margin note, Queen Liliuokalani accuses Alexander of speaking ill of her: “His white hair and beard did not prevent him from breaking one of the Ten Commandments of God—‘not to bear false witness against his neighbor.’ God forgive him!”


A large pipe once owned by Hawaii’s last king, King David Kalakaua.
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

King David Kalakaua’s Pipe

Believed to have been the pipe of King David Kalakaua. It is made of wood, possibly kou, and brass, and is impressive in size, coming in at 15 ½ inches long with the bowl being 4 ½ inches in height.

Categories: Arts + Culture, Culture, From Our Magazine, Oʻahu, O‘ahu Arts + Culture