As Jewelry Shopping Guide editors, we write about things that we love and we think you’ll like too. We often have affiliate partnerships, and may generate some revenue from these links at no cost to you.
Abalone is a stunning shell that is known for its iridescence and unique, vivid color palette. The gemstone has been used in jewelry for thousands of years and continues to be popular in modern designs. Affordable, stylish and distinctive, it’s the ideal choice to shake up your wardrobe and add a burst of color to your look.
Keep reading as we cover everything you need to know about abalone jewelry.
What is Abalone?
Abalone is a type of marine snail, also known as a marine gastropod mollusc. It’s known by many names, including Paua (Maori name for the shell) and ormer shell (UK term), as well as some not so glamorous names like sea ears, muttonfish and ear shells. It’s famous as a luxury food source and is coveted around the world for its delicious taste.
Unfortunately, due to over-exploitation and increasing acidification of the oceans, numbers of abalone in the wild has drastically decreased. As a result, it’s illegal to collect abalone from oceans. Most abalone used in consumption today comes from farmed sources.
What Makes Abalone Special?
If you’re someone who’s attracted to the naturally beautiful, then you should check out abalone. When the shell is collected, it’s nothing special to look at. Covered in barnacles and other growth, it’s easy to dismiss an abalone shell as sea trash.
Polished abalone shell. See it here.
But once it’s cleaned and polished, the beauty of the abalone shell is undeniable, arresting and quite magical to look at.
What makes abalone so special is its stunning colors of blue, green and purple. The patterns swirl around on the surface of the shell, each unique and distinctive.
When opened, you’ll notice the gorgeous mother of pearl lining inside the shell that makes this one of the best sources of mother of pearl.
Here’s a video that shows you how to clean and polish an abalone shell, to bring out its luster and colors.
Abalone vs. Mother of Pearl
Lustrous mother of pearl earrings. See it here.
Abalone and mother of pearl are often used interchangeably but there are major differences between the two.
- Abalone refers to the marine snail as well as to the shell it’s found within, while mother of pearl refers to the nacre that lines the inside of the abalone shell. In other words, abalone is a source of mother of pearl.
- Typical mother of pearl is known for its white to cream colored hues, whereas abalone mother of pearl is brilliant in color, displaying vivid purples, blues and greens.
- Mother of pearl, also called nacre, can be harvested from any nacre producing mollusc, including oysters and freshwater molluscs that create pearls.
- The abalone snail is edible but mother of pearl is inedible.
Abalone is an organic gemstone, much like pearls and mother of pearl. It’s a source of mother of pearl and can sometimes yield pearls as well. These, however, are very rare and only a very small percentage of abalone will create pearls.
Because of the way abalone is formed, the shell is highly durable and is very strong and tough, even though its Mohs hardness is only a 2.5 to 4. This makes it excellent in the use of jewelry as it can be quite durable.
Abalone has been used in jewelry and decorative ornaments for hundreds of years. Its natural colors and patterns make each design unique and its perfect to add a burst of color to your look. What’s more, abalone jewelry is affordable, with prices to suit any shopper.
Abalone inlay wedding band. See it here.
Like mother of pearl, abalone can be used in a variety of ways, including inlays, carvings and mosaics. It pairs well with any metal color, especially with yellow and rose gold for a vintage, sophisticated look.
Abalone’s peacock-like colors make it perfect for boho themed natural jewelry styles as well as in modern, sophisticated styles.
Unique abalone earrings. See them here.
Minimalist abalone ring. See it here.
Because of the gemstone’s striking colors, a little goes a long way, which is why abalone is excellent for minimalist jewelry styles if you prefer something a little understated. It still stands out and draws attention but does this in a subtle way.
If you prefer something a bit louder, abalone works great in large, statement jewelry too. We personally prefer a less is more approach when it comes to abalone but it all depends on your preferences.
Caring for Abalone Jewelry
Caring for abalone jewelry is necessary to keep the gemstone lustrous and vivid. Even though it’s a durable gemstone, some common sense steps will make sure it remains shiny and vibrant for a long time.
- Avoid exposing the stone to direct sunlight or heat as this can cause the colors to fade.
- When cleaning abalone jewelry, simply use a mild soap and warm water along with a soft cloth to remove any body oils, dirt and grime build up.
- Don’t use any harsh chemicals, detergents, baking soda, ammonia or other abrasive products when cleaning abalone jewelry. This will likely do more harm than good and can scratch the surface of the gemstone and damage the nacre.
- Wearing abalone jewelry frequently will keep it lustrous, as the natural body oil from your skin will help the gemstone maintain its shine. Even so, when taking off your abalone jewelry, remember to give it a quick wipe with a clean lint-free cloth or chamois to remove any residue on the piece.
- Take off abalone jewelry when engaging in water related or vigorous activities, like swimming in chlorinated pools, gardening, cleaning or playing sports.
- Always store abalone jewelry separately in a soft fabric pouch or a fabric-lined box. This will keep it free from getting scratched by other harder objects.
Abalone Shell Meaning and Symbolism
Abalone has been a valued shell by many cultures around the world, including Native Americans and the Maori of New Zealand.
The shell is believed to hold healing properties and enhances emotional balance and harmony. Holding an abalone shell or wearing jewelry made from this shell is thought to enhance peace, relaxation, tranquillity and soothing of the mind. It’s perfect to relieve stress and is a good gemstone to have during stressful times. In many cultures, abalone represents water and its cleansing properties. It’s able to put out the fires of emotional and mental stress.
Abalone is lined with mother of pearl, which is believed to enhance creativity, intuition, imagination and mental clarity. It is believed to connect a person to the highest chakras.
*Disclaimer: Jewelry Shopping Guide does not guarantee or validate any of the claims related to the metaphysical and alternative healing powers of this or any other gemstone. This information should in no way be used as a substitute for medical advice.
Where to Buy Abalone Jewelry
Abalone is not a rare gemstone and finding jewelry made out of this shell is not difficult. You will have a world of options if you take your search online, where not only will you have access to endless design options but also to competitive prices.
Always check the returns and after sales policies and make sure you’re purchasing from a reputable retailer.
Ready to browse? Click here for abalone jewelry.