originally were naturally-occurring bead-like objects which could be found on some beaches in Hawaii. These were beachworn pieces of cone snail shells, a kind of seashell. Puka is the Hawaiian word for "hole" and refers to the naturally-occurring hole in the middle of these rounded shell fragments. Numerous inexpensive imitations are now widely sold however, the majority of which are not made from cone shells. Some beads that are currently made from cone shells have been worked by hand with pliers from whole shells and then subjected to a little tumble finishing, instead of being formed entirely by natural processes.
The original puka shell beads were very easily made into necklaces, bracelets and anklets because they already had a natural hole which enabled them to be strung like beads. Puka jewellery first became popular in Hawaii, though many species of cone snails, family Conidae, are found in tropical oceans worldwide.
In Hawaii, the wearing of puka shells was traditionally thought to ensure a peaceful and safe voyage, especially for sailors on a long journey, so puka shell necklaces were especially worn by those who had to travel at sea.