Many people like the idea of shark teeth as jewelry, home décor, and other accessories. However, there are probably a lot of things you don't know about shark tooth jewelry and the meaning they have as Hawaiian gifts and culture. Here are five fast facts you may not have known about the shark tooth necklace as well as a bit of history surrounding the allure of the shark tooth.
- Sharks have approximately 3,000 teeth in their mouth
- Leiomano is a traditional Hawaiian piece that uses the durability and strength of the shark tooth as a weapon
- According to an ancient Hawaiian myth, the shark tooth may prevent shark attacks
- The movie Jaws helped propel the shark tooth necklace to its massive popularity during the 1970s
- Shark tooth necklaces are said to embody gods, ancestors and family deities
What is a Shark Tooth?
Did you know that sharks and their ancestors have been swimming around our oceans for approximately 400 million years? These ocean creatures vary in length, with the great white shark measuring in at between seven to 20 feet in length and smaller sharks, such as the nurse shark, ranging from seven to nine feet. The ancient megalodon shark, however, is thought to have been between 34 and 47 feet long. You may pass by a shark tooth from a great white shark, hammerhead, or nurse shark while walking along the beach without even noticing it. If you find a megalodon shark tooth, however, you’ll have no doubts!
All sharks have one major thing in common: their teeth. Sharks are one of the few animals that have an unlimited number of teeth. Humans have a limited number of teeth. As children, our baby teeth fall out, and then our adult teeth replace them. A shark, however, never runs out of teeth. A shark tooth can come loose in a variety of ways, but most often is the product of aggressive eating.
A shark's mouth contains roughly 3,000 teeth at a time. The front row of teeth is the largest, with as many as five rows of smaller teeth stacked behind the first. Sharks have some of the most powerful jaws of any animal on the planet.
Humans, and many other species, have an upper jaw that remains in place while the lower jaw moves to chew. Sharks, on the other hand, have jaws that move independently from one another. When a shark finds a piece of prey, it bites first with its lower jaw, and then with its upper jaw. Although sharks have thousands of teeth, a shark eats by shaking its head back and forth and then swallowing its bites whole.
You can tell the type of shark a shark tooth came from just by looking at it. Each shark tooth has a different shape depending on the kind of foods that the shark eats. When a shark dies, each shark tooth floats to the bottom of the ocean. The shark tooth then settles into the sediment at the bottom of the sea, turning from the typical bright white to the dirty brownish-grey from the surrounding material.
What is Leiomano?
If you're familiar with Hawaiian gifts, you may have heard of the leiomano. A leiomano is a shark tooth club famous in Polynesian and native Hawaiian cultures as a method of protection. Leiomano is a Hawaiian word that may come from lei o manō, which translates to a shark's lei.
In addition to using leiomano for protection, they were also used by native Hawaiians to cut and chop their food. Leiomano comes in a variety of shark tooth styles, with the tiger shark tooth being the most common. The design is similar to a ping pong paddle and features a shark tooth sewn into place every few inches. The leiomano was more than just a weapon; it was also a special Hawaiian gift that families would pass to royalty.
Can a Shark Tooth Protect You?
Many people see the shark tooth necklace as a symbol of protection and strength. According to ancient Hawaiian lore, a shark tooth can protect you from a shark attack. This belief comes from a story about a young Hawaiian man who battled a sea god. After the man won, he emerged from the sea wearing a shark tooth necklace. Although there's no solid proof to indicate that wearing a shark tooth necklace can prevent you from being the victim of a shark attack, that doesn't mean that a shark tooth doesn't make a fantastic Hawaiian gift!
Shark Tooth Necklaces
A shark tooth necklace is an everyday accessory, especially for those looking for traditional Hawaiian gifts. Shark tooth necklaces have been popular as trendy pieces for decades, with the look of the shark tooth rising in popularity in the 1960s and then peaking two decades later in the 1990s.
In the mid-1970s, the blockbuster hit Jaws hit theaters. The film by Steven Spielberg tells the story of a great white shark that terrorizes a New England town. Although it may seem a bit counterintuitive, the popularity of the film is one of the main reasons that people believe the shark tooth necklace became popular.
Are Shark Tooth Necklaces Special?
Many Hawaiian gifts involve objects or items that islanders have great respect for. While Hawaiians believe it's important to seek protection from sharks with a shark tooth necklace, many also believe that sharks deserve respect and admiration. Native Hawaiians believe that sharks embody the spirits of gods, ancestors, and family deities, also known as aumakua. Hawaiian mythology says that aumakua traditionally manifest themselves as sharks or owls, and are present to provide safety and security over people, plants, animals, and families. While a shark tooth represents strength, it also represents honor and tradition.
Hawaiian Gifts of a Shark Tooth
If you're looking for Hawaiian gifts, you can't go wrong with a shark tooth or a shark tooth necklace. In attempting to embody the feel of traditional Hawaiian gifts, many designers incorporate the shark tooth into their designs by making a shark tooth necklace with gold accents.