Newsletter - July 25, 2012

The Jewelry Crafter

A newsletter for the home jeweler

This newsletter will be published once per month, and will include hints and tips for your jewelry business.  Any feedback or comments about the topics presented here are always appreciated.  Click here to e-mail us.

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Abalone and Paua Shell


Mary Harvey

You’ve all probably seen that beautiful, iridescent shell called Abalone.  I’m sure you’ve also seen different colors of Paua shell.  I’ve been asked by several people what the difference is between the two.  This week we will talk all about Abalone and Paua shells.

Abalone belongs to a mollusk Family Haliotidae, Genus Haliotis (meaning “sea ear” because the shape of the shell resembles the human ear).  There are about 100-120 different species of abalone worldwide, characterized by the richly colored inside of the shell, also called Mother of Pearl. Abalone are found off the coasts of California, New Zealand, Florida and several islands in the South Pacific. There are approximately 9 species of abalone found off the US Coasts.  The inside of the Abalone shell is mostly silver in color, but with hues ranging from iridescent green and blue to pink.

Paua shells are found exclusively in New Zealand, and are a species of abalone but with more intense colors.  Because of the beautiful plays of color found in these shells, they are sometimes referred to as “Sea Opal” or “Marine Opal”.  The natural colors of Paua shell range from greens and pinks, to purples and blues, with gold or crimson tones.

The beautiful iridescent colors of the abalone and paua shells make them a great choice for jewelry making.  Even though the natural shells have vibrant colors, some are enhanced by dyeing and protected with a clear cap to make them more durable.  Abalone is very soft (2-3 on the Moh’s scale of hardness), and needs to be treated with care to avoid damage.

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