Semi-Precious Gemstone, Mineral and Shell – Paua and Abalone

Information– Paua and Abalone are marine gastropod mollusks (snails) that belong to the genus, Haliotis, known as ormer shells. The Paua, is a common species, which grows up to 18cm wide. These giant sea snails have a large muscular foot which helps them to cling to rocks. They live in tidal areas and feed on seaweed. Mother of Pearl is the colorful covering nacre that is created within the inner lining of many types of mollusk shells, the lustrous & iridescent material is produced in the same manner as pearls are created.

History– Paua is derived from the Maori word for the sea snail. The genus “Haliotis” means ‘sea ear’. The industry was started in New Zealand in the 1980’s on small scale farms which produced meat, shells, and in some cases blue pearls. Most of the products were exported to the US and Asia. Historically, Mother of Pearl has been found in tombs of Sumerian Royalty and was often used not only for jewelry but for inlaid furniture, art ,and even in musical instruments.

Location- They are found in tidal regions along the New Zealand Coasts. New Zealand and Stewart Island are the main production areas. “Haliotis iris (colorful Paua) are commonly found in shallow coastal waters. Paua juveniles of 7cm are discovered in crevices and under stones in shallow intertidal zones and adults are found in subtidal zones.” (

Folklore- Mother of pearl is said to have a calming effect and and allows for better memory recall. Some feel that this stone is helpful in healing wounds and improving vision.

Care- Wearing often is an excellent way of keeping the shells lustrous. The natural oils of your skin actually help and protect the shells from drying out. Use of a jewelry cloth for mild wear or lukewarm water and a soft toothbrush for exceptionally dirty shell jewelry. Avoid exposing Mother of Pearl to acidic or alkaline subjects. Store out of direct sunlight in a separate compartments, storage containers, or jewelry bags.

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