Paua Shell

Naturally iridescent with a multitude of radiant hues, the New Zealand Paua Shell is highly attractive & unique.

Paua is the Maori word for abalone and is pronounced “pah-wah”. We use Paua Shell because it is the brightest of all abalone shells: the colours of each shell change when viewed from different angles & the patterns are also unique to each shell. Other abalone shells have different qualities - in North America they are more turquoise blue; in South Africa they are much paler.

Paua is a univalve shellfish only found in the sea around New Zealand and it lives clinging to rocks at depths of 1-10 meters, normally along the shoreline. The shell grows to 20cm long and can live for over 40 years.

The Paua fishery is properly managed in a sustainable way and there is a quota management system in place and strictly enforced regulations which control the size of Paua taken. The Paua divers can only free-dive to pry Paua off the rocks as the use of air tanks is prohibited. So although Paua stocks have been depleted, the sustainability of this natural resource appears ensured. Every time the shell is sold it increases the value of this natural resource and helps to ensure that it continues to be managed in a sustainable way.

After divers harvest the shell, the outer crust is removed by tumbling it with pebbles and shells and then by polishing it to expose the shell’s beautiful colours at their most radiant. The iridescence of the shell, similar to that of Mother of Pearl, is what makes Paua shell so amazing as a gem material for use in jewellery. It is truly one of nature's marvels. The black patterns in the shell come from layers of protein which are laid down between the layers of calcium that make up the shell, & the brilliant colours are from light being refracted within the crystal layers.

For hundreds of years the Maori have traditionally used Paua shell to illuminate the eyes of their carving and artwork. If you visit a Maori Marae in New Zealand, look out for the Paua glimmering all over it to protect and ward off evil spirits.

The Maori have always considered Paua shell to be lucky, as well as one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful creations.