•• s h e l l
Mother of pearl is prevalent and relatively inexpensive. The most valuable shell components tend to
be from pearl oysters (golden-lip and black-lip), and given the rich golden color or shimmering gray color,
it's clear why these components are in demand and command higher prices. Paua shell also tends to be
higher value, due to the rarity of the source. Paua are large sea snails found in shallow
coast waters off New Zealand, and it is illegal to dive for paua with scuba equipment (free dives only).
Maori associate paua with the symbolic eyes of ancestors shining down.
Shell beads may be drilled if the pieces are sufficiently thick or assembled back
to back, and these may be coated as well to improve hardness and prevent chipping.
Natural colors can include pale mauve from river mussel shells, but most colored shells
have been dyed. Shell mosaics (smaller pieces of shell adhered to a backing material) are
common and make great focal points; they also tend to be robust. Care must be taken with
thin translucent shell otherwise these components can break.