New Zealand Paua Shells
Iridescent Abalone - Home to NZ's shore

Paua shells that are found on NZ’s coastline belong to the family of abalone shells. The sea snail living within has the status of a delicacy. While the shell itself inspired many artists and designers with its iridescent colour shade ranging from light sky-blue to dark, greenish, and pink to purple.

Attraction of Iridiscent Paua ...

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Attraction of paua

  • For Maori people and New Zealander these sea snails are sought after delicacies.
  • For fishing shell pieces are used as lure.
  • Paua inlays accentuate often carvings around the marae, a traditional meeting house. There the shells' ability to change colour with the quality of the light reflected is used to enliven eyes in manaia carvings.
  • Today many creative uses are added like designs for jewellery gift ideas, inlay works in carved bone jewellery, pounamu or greenstone jewellery, and wood craft gifts as well as a sheer endless application to decorative home accessories.
  • Pearl producing method could be applied to make a rare paua pearl find controllable.

About paua

The pauas inner coat consists of nacre better known as mother of pearl. Black pattern in the nacre underline their characteristic brilliance of colour in shades ranging from green to light and dark blue to violet and pinks and ad a quality of deepness.

Pauas are part of the abalone group. More illustrative terms are ear shells and sea ears. The row of holes on the flat shell is a feature of the abalone that supports their respiration and breeding.

Unique to shores of New Zealand pauas cling on rocks in water depths from 1-10m. Though found all over New Zealand they prefer the colder waters of the South Island in particular Stuart Island .

Guarantee of the abalone's sustainability

With high demand on their flesh and shell the ministry of fisheries manages the taking of the paua shells to guarantee sustainability. This means commercial and individual fishing pursue a ration system. In place are regulations about size, quantity and restriction on air supported diving methods.

The amount to gather is limited to 10 paua shells per person. The shells minimal length is 125 mm measured on the outer site rather than on the round part. Offended regulations lead to consequences.

This approach fosters a bright future for paua shell jewelry and ongoing availability for commercial and individual dietary demands.

Commercial paua farming

One of the newer progressions is to apply the pearl creating technique to the paua to gain pearls with the same iridescent characteristics as the shell.

First this came up at the end of the 80’s. Pioneers intended to farm paua as a side income stream to other fishery activities. A Korean scientist approached the farmer to run experiments on paua stock similar to commercially produced pearls in Korea. Goal was to initiate the production of paua pearls to make this rare finding in nature more common.

With that a new idea and product was borne. The result was a fascinating iridescent pearl that conquered the fish farmer’s heart. After years of developing the best method to set off the production of pearls, foster their growth, and finally to introduce them to the world market patience and perseverance paid of. 

Intriguing jewellery embellished with these magnificent Blue Abalone Pearls gain world wide consumer hearts.

Related pages

AKL Art Galleries    
NZ Art Online
NZ Craft Resources

Art Prints       
Art around the World

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