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Secret to beautiful jewelry is patience, Tongan Mormon says

When creating handmade treasures of the islands, Tatafu Langi literally combines the old and the new.The art of carving exquisite jewelry from whale bone, beef bone, Abalone, ivory and Koa wood was passed on to him as a child by his father, who learned from his own father in the Kingdom of Tonga.But Langi takes advantage of modern tools to help sand and buff the jewelry. He also uses the Internet to sell his wares.__IMAGE1__"In the old day, they used a lot of stones to do the carving," Langi said. "There was lots of stretching and filing."One thing, however, hasn't changed.It takes skill and patience to create the intricate designs that include waves, swirls, hooks and three-dimensional images.Langi and his wife, Sara, sell bone jewelry at the Dole Plantation in Hawaii, at the Mormon Polynesian Cultural Center and all over the world from their Web site, www.hawaiibonecarving.com. They have clients from around the world and a growing demand for custom pieces.He says the secret to the jewelry's beauty is patience — and finishing."I do it all the way," Langi said. "I have a lot of cousins and friends who carve but they don't finish the pieces. I polish and sand and buff."Customers usually bring Langi material from their homes. Fossilized whale bone from the island of Moloka'i is a popular material.Langi is now experienced enough that he usually can carve a piece in a couple of hours, but every once in a while he still has one break.More often than not, it's the buffer wheel that will "sometimes grab it and throw it on the floor," he said with a chuckle. "When they break, they break. Then you start over."He isn't partial to one design over another, although he usually likes whatever is the newest."I always like the new stuff I have but I like them all," he said.That "stuff" includes a traditional Hawaiian bone tongue, the Infinity Twist (Langi's signature piece), a turtle, an octopus, a shark, a whale tail and a variety of traditional fish hook pieces. On the islands, the fish hook represents strength, determination, peace, growth and harmony, as well as protection while traveling over the water.Some of the pieces he's made for Sara include Tahitian pearls inside of the carving."I have pieces I don't even wear for fear people will want to buy them," she said.Darrell Stacey and his wife, Loretta, have bought a number of pieces from Langi over the past couple of years when they visit their daughter in Hawaii."I think he's just a true artist," Loretta Stacey said. "We all have one and people notice when we wear them. They always want to know where we got them."The Langis are members of the Wahaiwa Third Ward in the Mililani Stake, where he is the financial clerk and she is the Relief Society president. They have two small children, one of whom is a son who may one day learn to carve, said his father."My son, he's only 6," Langi said. "He comes in, he takes the stuff and runs with it."