Paua Shell

Hey all, I was just thinking about an idea for a project, and I was
wondering…does anyone know about paua shell or how to get it? Is
it at all durable? Can one drill holes into it, like with other
shells or pearls? Or will the colors flake? How thick is it?

–M. Osedo

I just bought one at a store called shell world about 8in in
diameter for about 8 bucks. I’ve seen them on the internet too,
sorry I can’t recall the site. Color is great, it’s rather thick for
a seashell but it’s still a skell. It can be drilled preferably with
a sharp drill. I do it with a manual drill so it won’t chip. most of
the cut pieces one buy’s are treated with some kind of resin but it
can be polished amazingly well and fast, I do it with a cotton buff
and rouge on my rotary tool in a very low speed. after that it’s
preferable to apply some kind of clear coating, I use resin, a very
small coat is enough. I suppose clear varnish could work too.
Everything else like sanding and fling is easy. Sawing must be done
with a rather thick blade 2/0 minimum so the dust won’t stick to it
and stop sawing. I hope this helps.

Julieta Odio Bernardi
San Jose, Costa Rica

G’day, I have worked with paua shell, It is very brittle and
breaks easily, but can be cut into shapes with a fine toothed
jeweller’s saw, and it is easily drilled with a sharp twist drill,
but one has to use a light touch or it will chip as the drill breaks
through. The dust from paua is very unkind to lungs, and one can
get a lung disease like silicosis or asbestosis if the dust is
inhaled. A mask is essential. The shell as it is found has a thick
crust on the outside which isn’t at all pretty, and must be ground
away with a coarse grindstone, but often when the ugly crust is
ground away, the shell left is so thin as to be translucent when
held up to the light. It is a very noisy and messy/dusty job; the
shape of the shell seems to act like a megaphone and amplify the
sound of the grindstone. It is very durable and doesn’t deteriorate
with age… In New Zealand they are found on most of our coasts, up
to about 8 inches long, and people dive for them at weekends, and
practically all our jeweller shops have samples of work for sale
using paua shell. I have no idea where you would obtain paua shell
in your country.

Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ

And – I would add – wear a good dust mask, as Paua dust is
poisonous!!! Margaret @Margaret_Malm2, in Utah’s colorful Dixie

You can also buy paua shell from companies who supply luthier (guitar
making) materials. It’s more expensive than buying the raw shell,
but it’s already cut and polished. It is very thin, though, and it’s
usually flat, which may be a drawback for some types of jewelry.
Luthier’s Mercantile International is one.
They sell other types of shell, too.

Susan McMurry

I’m not sure who it was that asked now, but one source of paua can
be = found at . Seems like there was
another, but the = Orchid archives would likely turn up more info. if
you do a search.

Hope that’ll help ya! Carol

    It can be drilled preferably with a sharp drill. 

Beware the dust. If inhaled it can set up a bad reaction in some
people. If you can smell the shell smell as you drill/work it, then
you are inhaling the dust. Solution: work paua shell wet, using a
water-cooled diamond wheel or emery drum arbor set-up.

Paua shell sunglasses: and some
earlier (1981+) drawings:

B r i a n A d a m
e y e g l a s s e s j e w e l l e r y


Just a quick thought or two regarding Paua… I may be way off
here, but being a long time collector of abalone and paua shell
stuff. I had always heard paua was a warm water species - it’s cold
water cousin being the “regular” abalone (dont know the latin/genus
on either…)

The 2 things are 1) if it IS an abalone, you have the same concerns
about toxicity with the dust

  1. Many supposedly natural paua shells are indeed dyed. Usually

I don’t off hand know of any one good resources for pieces that are
not dyed, but thought there was a fairly good supply out of New
Zealand. Firemountain always worked for me - they have had it before

  • not sure but would have to check their latest catalog.

Mary Beth -
BIG swirly shell fan.