Undersea shot of coral polyps . Photos by Shera Mercer.
Alohi Kai’s artistic interpretation of coral polyps in a pendant and earrings.
This is as much a love story as a story about jewelry. When it comes to Shera and Joe Mercer, it’s impossible to separate the romance from the art.
It’s also about serendipity. A lot of things conspired to bring about Alohi Kai, a chic and elegant new jewelry line by Shera Mercer.
First, Shera had to meet Joe. Although they were both living and working in London, they met halfway around the world, while scuba diving in the Indian Ocean. Scuba diving is a primary passion for both of them, although personally they come from opposite sides of the earth and professionally they come from widely different fields.
Joe is a clinical pharmacologist (although originally trained in marine biology) who was born and raised in Bath, England. Shera is a consultant in social and health policy, whose last job in London was with the BBC as head of customer strategy in a social care program for the elderly and disabled. She was born and raised in Hawaii (Punahou class of ’86) and previously worked in such far flung locales as Japan, Mexico, Seattle and Dubai.
One of several shark designs by Alohi Kai.
Shera believes sharks are widely misunderstood by humans.
Shera first began creating jewelry while a student at Punahou. She took jewelry classes there, as well as drawing and glass blowing. She also tried sculpture and ceramics, and loved every single art form. Then she went off to college in Boston, followed by graduate school and travel. After school, consulting took over her life.
Jellyfish are another source of inspiration for Shera.
A box jellyfish for the wrist!
It was marrying Joe that brought her back to jewelry. The couple, who share all the excitement of newly weds, were married in England.
Joe said “My mother waited patiently for 50 years for me to get married and I wasn’t going to disappoint her by getting married anywhere else,” so a Hawaii wedding was not in the picture. But Shera wanted to have something tropical at their wedding, so she dusted off her silversmithing tools and cast silver cowry shells for each wedding guest as a gift to take home and treasure. This project, along with the couple’s shared passion for all things related to the ocean, rekindled her passion for jewelry.
Shera added semi-precious stones to make this shark sparkle.
Shera and Joe didn’t have to go far to find inspiration for their jewelry lines. Shera has been shooting spectacular underwater photographs for many years, in places as varied as the Maldives, Hawaii, England, Mexico and the Bahamas.
Shera really loves sharks and often dives with them. She longed to have a shark pendant, but couldn’t find one anywhere. Her first jewelry “model” was a shark. Shera firmly believes that sharks are totally misunderstood by humans. “It’s a privilege to swim with sharks and dolphins. They swim right up to us, and if they stick around with us, that’s an honor,” she said with unabashed glee.
Sea urchins also inspire designs by Alohi Kai.
Swimming with dolphins is a grand source of inspiration.
Alohi Kai means “brilliant ocean” or “ocean brightness,” and it is light that both feeds the ocean and enables man to experience what the ocean has to offer. It is also a portion of Shera’s Hawaiian name, which is so long and unpronounceable I won’t even try to spell it here.
Shera employs the labor-intensive wax casting method in creating her jewelry lines. She begins with one of her undersea photos, followed by a sketch. She then carefully carves and sculpts the figure in wax. Wax models are then cast in silver and some are made into molds. A single design can take her two weeks to carve.
Although Alohi Kai jewelry has only been on the market for a few months, Shera has been prolific in creating new designs for the past few years. There are currently four collections:
- Pelagic: sharks, dolphins, jellyfish
- Reef: corals, urchins, oysters
- Endangered: black coral, scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Hawaiian Monk Seal, Orange Cup Coral, Oceanic Blacktips and Lemon Sharks
- Men’s (in process): sharks, jellyfish and, very soon, cuff links
Shera is introducing colored gem stones into her line because, she says, “women want color.”
Just in the course of our interview, I learned a lot of fascinating things about the ocean around us. For example, did you know that bubbles are not round; they are flat on the bottom? So Shera is creating a whole line of bubble-related pieces. Here’s the first:
A bubble pendant by Alohi Kai.
Alohi Kai jewelry is currently sold at Riches Kahala in Kahala Mall and at Nohea Gallery in Ward Warehouse. Check it out online at www.alohikai.com
- Paula Rath
Alohi Kai’s hammerhead shark pendant.