Shells, Coral, Pearls
Anyone wandering an ocean beach can't resist the temptation to scan the sand for that special shell and it seems we are almost always rewarded with one. Our affection for shells has been with us for millennia dating back to the Stone Age.
When we create jewelry, we want to present an image beyond just our physical selves. Shells, pearls and coral can provide this milieu. This jewelry likely made some profound statement for our ancient ancestors and can still have great intrinsic value to the modern day jewelry maker.
Shells, pearls and coral can be purchased as beads or pendants that are predrilled or cut to allow stringing. They are treated for strength, dyed into a myriad of colors, cut to form uniform shapes or sorted for easy incorporation into jewelry.
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Shell Oval Beads
Freshewater Pearl Beads
WHAT ARE SHELLS?
Shells are the hard outer protective coverings (exoskeletons) of marine or freshwater creatures. Most of these creatures are soft bodied and when they die they leave behind shells. These shells can be found in great abundance on shores and beaches and some can be used as components of jewelry. Most jewelry grade shells, pearls and coral are produced on farms and are inexpensive.
Perhaps the most famous ocean or freshwater jewelry component is not actually a shell but a Pearl. Pearls come from mollusks (oysters & mussels) and start their life as a grain of sand. The sand irritates the oyster and it creates a layer of nacre that covers the sand particle. The mollusk continues adding more layers and over time you get a natural pearl. Large round natural pearls or pearls that are created wild are rare and highly treasured. Most pearls today come from pearl farms and are known as cultured pearls.
WHAT IS CORAL?
When one thinks of coral as a color, we envision an orangey medium red color and this color can exist naturally, but there are many natural variations of this color. Coral is now commercially farmed and not considered endangered.
Generally you will find two types of jewelry coral - Sponge and Bamboo
Sponge Coral is formed by tiny sea creatures (polyps) that grow and die over generations and leaves a porous exoskeleton. These holes left by the polyps makes the coral look like a sponge and hence the name.
Bamboo Coral is a branchlike coral and has an appearance similar to bamboo. Natural Bamboo coral is grayish or inconsistent in color. This coral is generally dyed pink red or red for jewelry purposes.