This family, of approximately 100 species, is never seen on our Hatteras Beach. It is not native to our area. Abalone is found in New Zealand, S. Africa, and parts of California, and Mexico. There is another shell similar to the abalone yet, of an entirely different family, found off the coast of Peru and Chile. It is known as the Chilean abalone or Concholepas concholepas.
Abalone are not as plentiful in shell shops on the east coast as they used to be due to the cost factor of shipping them across country, as well as many controls that have been placed on them to prevent over harvesting. They are in demand as a food supply, and in high demand by decorators and crafters due to their extreme beauty when polished.
The inside of the shell is composed of mother of pearl or nacre. Other shells have mother of pearl but none can compare with the many color ranges that are present in the Abalone Shell. When you expose a polished abalone shell to bright light you can easily see why I have given it the name Rainbow Shell. In some of the abalones, like those from New Zealand called Paua, the mother of pearl is highly iridescent and reflects a variety of colors from silvery white, green, red, pink, purple and blue.
I call it the Rainbow Shell because it reminds me of the beautiful rainbows
I see on the Hatteras Beach.
The animal inside the shell is a gentle creature that feeds on algae. When you look at the outer edge of the shell you will see a row of holes that the animal uses not only in breathing but to excrete waste products. I have found the holes are great for hanging the shell on thin hooks for display, which you will notice when you visit my shell shacks.
Two views of the holes from the inside and outside of the Abalone shell. The holes are use by the animal inside the shell in the reproductive process as well as a means of respiration, and eliminating was products.
I am sure you have seen hundreds of craft items that have incorporated mother of pearl from the Abalone shell. In fact some of the buttons on your clothes or the jewelry you wear might be made from the mother of pearl from the abalone shell. If you look around your house you will probably come across decorative boxes and even furniture that have Abalone shell inlay. In our Old Gray House Gift Shop you will see many different uses our crafters have made of the abalone shell in producing wreaths, picture frames, and mirrors lined with abalone.
One type of Abalone that we try to keep available at all times for our many crafter guests who frequent our shop is the smaller variety called Donkey ears and round abalone. We usually have them in their natural state or pearled to reveal the beauty of the mother of pearl.