Paua Shell Jewellery

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Girl Paua Story

Mhairi from Girl Paua


I’m Mhairi, pronounced Vari, & after graduating from Aberdeen University with a Joint Honours Degree in Languages, I spent a year working in New Zealand. I returned home to Glasgow in 2004 & over the next few years I had two daughters. They are Skiwis – half Scottish, half Kiwi! In May 2007 their NZ grandparents visited. Nana is Māori & Koro (Maori for grandpa) is Pakeha (white European settler ancestry). They brought over some paua shell pieces & I made them into pendants.

Girl Paua was born! I combine NZ Paua Shell with Freshwater Pearls & Cut Glass Crystals to create elegant jewellery. I also do a lot of drilling and gluing & enjoy making unique shell gifts including hairclips, bookmarks, photo frames, mosaic brooches, box frame art & more!

Paua, pronounced pah-wah, is the maori word for abalone and it is the brightest of its species. It is a univalve shellfish which is found in New Zealand coastal waters clinging to rocks at depths of 1-10m. After harvesting, the shells are tumbled with other pebbles and shells, and their crustations removed, exposing the shell’s beautiful iridescent colours. The black patterns in the shell come from layers of protein laid down between the layers of calcium which make up the shell, and the colours are from light being refracted within the crystal layers. This rainbow of iridescence makes each paua so unique & beautiful.

Paua Shells are a bi-product of the fishery industry. There are strict sustainability measures in place including a quota management system (5 max) and regulations controlling the size of the paua taken. Bays around New Zealand are protected by Maori law. Paua divers can only freedive to harvest the shell (no scuba apparatus).

For hundreds of years the Maoris have traditionally used Paua Shell to illuminate their carvings and artwork, and in particular in the eyes to protect and ward off evil spirits. They believe it brings luck.

I hope you like my paua shell designs. There are lots of ways to see the full range - I attend events around the UK & sell in shops, all of which are detailed on the website & social media, or you can purchase direct on the website, thanks, Mhairi