Abalone Shell Pieces, Their Origins and Their Uses

Anyone walking along the wild Southern New Zealand beaches soon wanders off, distracted by the work of the ocean. Each rock, stone and shell fragment has been relentlessly tumbled into a unique polished shape, and eventually thrown out of the waves' reach until the next storm!

Perhaps that is why designers, creative artisans and jewelers are so captivated by ocean gems, also named tumbled shell pieces.

Tucked away at the back of a large shed near the Riverton Estuary, Southland New Zealand, our tumblers emulate the work of the waves for two or three days at a time. Over the years, our methods were refined and today we can produce on demand a range of tumbled shell pieces that continue to inspire the creative world.

In this edition of our monthly features, we will showcase the main types of tumbled shell pieces and what they they are best used for.

Tumbled shells, New Zealand Abalone (Paua) Natural

For those just seeking the exact replica of a natural shine found in the ocean tumbled shell pieces, the recipe is quite simple. All we have to do is fast track the effects of the ocean with the use of our tumblers. The same abrasive elements are added, as found in mother nature.

For ease of use, we have separated the pieces into sizes and shapes as shown below;

Abalone Tumbled Shell Pieces- Shapes and Sizes
New Zealand Abalone (Paua) Shell Pieces as Found on the Beach

Natural tumbled shell pieces are best if you are planning to do your own polishing or gloss enhancement:

-With resin casting, where the fragment is magnified by the resin layer.

-If the piece is intended for a fine jewelry creation where the jeweler wants a specific shine. Fine Jewelers choose every piece for their unique shape that inspires the final creation

-If a final gloss coating is added once the pieces are added to the crafted item.

Abalone Tumbled Shell Pieces in Arts, Crafts and Jewelry

Satin Tumbled Abalone Shell Pieces.

Our process Removes the rough layer of the outer shell, known as the "Skin", this is how the colorful layers are revealed. One of our "secret" tumbling recipes adds a satin gloss to all the shell pieces. This type of tumbled shell is quickly becoming the most popular as it often removes the need to add any shine to the finished product.

Thanks to their popularity, satin shell pieces are now available in six sizes as well as unsorted for a variety of sizes in the same pack. Lumea customers can source the shell pieces in 200 grams or 1 kilogram packs.

The Full Range of sizes:

Satin Abalone Paua Shell Pieces, all Sizes
The Full Range of Satin Pieces

Satin shell pieces can be used in all creative applications including the ones above. More gloss can be added with resin casting, special polishing and final coating, but often the satin pieces are left to shine from their natural gloss.

Abalone Shell Pieces In Arts and Giftware
Commercial Giftware Companies Use Tumbled Shell For Popular Products

Home decor, soft furnishings, some silver sterling jewelry, and even some wearable arts making the most of satin shell pieces...

Satin Paua Shell Pieces in Various Applications
Creative Industries Using High Value Paua Shell Pieces

Satin Rims a Great Variant for 3 Dimensional Art Pieces

Produced in 3 different sizes, satin rims are a specific choice for artists in search of a point of difference. Rims are also used to make veneer sheets!

Abalone Shell Pieces- Satin Paua Rims in 3D Art
Satin Paua Rims a Unique Alternative

Gloss Coated, Hole Drilled Satin Shell Pieces for Pendants

In the past, we went as far as adding a gloss coating to shell pieces , and providing them as pre-drilled for the use in custom made necklaces. Current trends show a preference for the plain satin pieces, allowing makers to choose the pieces worth drilling.

Tumbled Shell Fragments From Other Shell Species

The New Zealand Abalone (Paua) is difficult to equal in beauty, as none of the species considered as Mother of Pearl provide the same display of "rainbow like" colors with those thin black lines separating the layers of calcium carbonate, like contour lines on a topographical map...

Pink Mussel of the Mississippi river is an exception, it has been highly valued in the past by the Indian Jewelry industry and is a beautiful option for some 3D wall art.

Unfortunately, overfishing and habitat degradation has seen the pink mussel become classified as an endangered species, no longer being harvested and only found in highly protected areas. Previously is was found in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Conservation departments in those States are overseeing protection measures for this unique species.

Pink Mussel Satin Tumbled Shell Pieces
Wall Art With Pink Mussel Shell Pieces

Abalone Paua Terrazzo Chips

The abalone fisheries of New Zealand are well protected, as discussed in our article on the 11th Abalone Symposium-New Zealand 2023. However, in our continued effort to to avoid any waste from our Paua shell supplies, we have also found a great use for Paua Chips.

Broken or low quality shells can be crushed into many small colorful pieces that are very popular in the construction industry. Swimming pool renovators and polished concrete floor manufacturers understand their added value, hence the success of this product. Once again, depending on the desired style, various sizes are obtained by screening the crushed shell.

Recently Automotive manufacturers, in search of special effect for interior and exterior surfaces, have shown keen interest in terrazzo chips in the Paua as well as the Trochus Chips, a by product of making shell buttons. The use of natural materials that would otherwise go to waste is a big part of their philosophy, and trials are ongoing.

Abalone (Paua) Terrazzo Chips, and Trochus Terrazzo
"Zero Waste" with the Use of Shell Terrazzo Chip

As the use of ethically sourced natural products gathers momentum in an effort to reduce the presence of plastic, no doubt that tumbled shell pieces will have a greater role to play, and continue to be regarded as ocean gems.

Trochus Natural Whole shell
Trochus Natural Shell

Tell us about your project...

Your project is unique, so we provide personalised advice before delivering worldwide from our studio in New Zealand.

Luméa products are made from natural shell with a variety of factors that affect form and function. If you can’t find the right product from within our range, then talk to us about our custom design service. We love to experiment and collaborate with our partners to create unique solutions.


Tel: +64 3 234 9065

Email: [email protected]