The intricate design and varying color patterns of seashells make for their attractiveness in diverse artistic and ornamental uses -more popularly in jewelry making. Seashells are naturally tough and can be subjected to cutting, reshaping, and polishing processes. They come in distinct color patterns -some having spiral or radial lines or bands, some having axial or concentric lines, and some having wavy bands or angular markings that set them apart from other natural materials used by jewelry makers. The natural sophistication and intrinsic beauty of these seashells are beyond human creation.
Here are some of the most used types of seashells and their unique properties:
Mother-of-pearl shell —This type of shell, known as “pearl oyster”, “freshwater pearl mussels”, or “abalone”, has inner layers of distinctly iridescent white nacre. The deep-gold-toned variety comes from a thin yellow layer underlying the white nacre. White material from these shells typically has lots of colorful iridescent “flash”. M.O.P. shells are characteristically tough, which allows for adaptability to industrial processes such as cutting, grinding, and shaping into intricate designs without breaking off.
Black-lip shell — This shell is known as black-lip pearl oyster. The shell’s inner layer is lined with shiny iridescent black coating (called “nacre”), which reflects every color of the rainbow in its iridescent black background. This shell produces the famous and exotic black jewelry pearls. This type of shell work especially well on earrings —a pair of black-lip earrings will reflect all rainbow colors as light passes.
Brown-lip shell — This shell comes from a large family of tropical oysters having mother-of pearl interiors. This large, thin-shelled, and scoop-shaped variety yields the beautiful pinkish-brown and highly iridescent brown M.O.P. Brown-lip shell makes for attractive, earth-toned jewelry pendants that can work well with gold and silver.
Hammer shell — This shell is also known as the “violet oyster”. The Philippine variety (the type that Beads and Pieces carries), runs a streaked violet color, almost white if not in strong light, many pieces with a fine “ripple” figure. Because these shells are only 3″-4″ long, very thin, and dished, the blanks produced are also very small and it’s hard to get thicknesses over .030″ (.76mm).
Paua shell — This shell is also known as paua abalone. It is indisputably the most colorful nacreous shell in the world, typically deep blue or green with pinkish streaks that turn bluish when viewed at an angle. The Philippine variety of paua shell has richly-colored bands in the inner layer.
Capiz shell — It is a fan-shaped to nearly perfect flat-round shell. Capiz, or window shell, has a unique translucent, thin and almost colorless nature. Capiz shell has been used for centuries in native handicrafts and for making lampshades and primitive transparent windows (this shell is named after a province in the Philippines, Capiz). It is one of the very few shells that can be softened enough by boiling that it can be cut with scissors, but also very fragile and flaky which limits it’s adaptability in modern industrial processes.
Seashells allow for greater flexibility in design when combined with metal, wood, and other recyclable, modern materials. Incorporate more natural materials into your jewelry designs to create styles and fashion statements with a conscience —be more earth-friendly.