Wednesday, 10 October 2012

She sells sea shells continued

Looking through my jewellery I found I had other items that had originally been part of or produced by a living organism in the sea - a pendant made from abalone, coral earrings and a pearl necklace.  
my abalone pendant
My pendant made from abalone.
An abalone
Abalone is a common name for any of a group of small to very large edible sea snails. Sizes vary from 20mm to 200mm (or even more). The flesh of an abalone is considered a delicacy and can be consumed raw or cooked. If you are curious, here is how to prepare your abalone for consumption 

The inner layer of an abalone shell.
I am more interested in the the colourful highly iridescent thick inner layer of the shell, known as nacre or mother of pearl. This is produced in layers to protect the soft flesh of the snail being damaged by parasites or debris. The offending body gets trapped in the layers and can form a blister pearl that is attached to the shell or a free pearl ( see below).

This beautiful shell has long been used in jewellery as well as in other decorative items.
Abalone nacre used to emulate the
iridescence of a dragon flies wings

The very skilled use of abalone nacre used
as a decorative infill on this chinese table.

Abalone rarely produce pearls when they do, due to their internal structure, the pearls are often unusual shapes. The most common shape resembling a horn or sharks tooth. Abalone pearls can be very large - over 120mm in length. The value of an abalone pearl is determined by colour, lustre, shape, weight and size. These pearls are so rare that it takes an estimated 100,000 abalone harvested to produce one.

Over-fishing and poaching have reduced wild populations to such an extent that farmed abalone now supplies most of the abalone meat consumed. 
Scientists have found a way to recreate artificial nacre, this has its uses in technology read more here.

Abalone was revered among the native American Navajo, as one of the Navajo's four sacred stones; abalone plays a significant role in many of their myths.

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