Thursday, March 10, 2016

Jewels from the Sea

Pearls? Indeed, pearls - whether freshwater, cultured or glass - are among the first components that come to mind when we think of elegant, sophisticated jewelry, as shown in all the lovely handmade creations by members of the Jewelry on Etsy Team.

While pearls are the stand alone waterbred classic beads for jewelry designers, the sea around us offers an amazing variety of other treasures to explore.

Right now, with boho fashion trending and the summer wedding season approaching, this is the perfect time to get started planning our new jewelry creations - with seashells!

Natural, organic, eco-friendly and often awe inspiring, shells add such a delightful bohemian flair to nautically inspired designs that they are widely available commercially as pre-drilled beads. Examples, as shown below, include (clockwise from top left) shiva eye, cowrie, moonshell, conus and river shells.

Prefer a bit more color? These colorful aquamarine and gold turban shells are a striking blend of nature and glam.

Being fortunate to live just steps from the ocean, I love exploring the shore at low tide to see what new offerings the sea has tumbled and tossed my way - always making sure that the shells I add to my collection aren't inhabited! Over the years, I've made necklaces, bracelets and earrings with my own hand picked beach shells. Here's my all time favorite design, an eclectic "boho beach" necklace combining a simple shell pendant on a double strand mixing assorted gemstones, Czech glass and tiny crystals.

If, like mine, your shells are harvested from the beach, be sure to soak them overnight in a water/bleach solution, clean them with a natural soft bristle brush, spread them on paper towels to air dry completely (check the insides, too), and store them in an open jar or well ventilated box. Remember: "You can take the shell out of the ocean, but you can't take the ocean out of the shell." 

You can incorporate your shells into your designs with glue or by drilling small holes for stringing and wire wrapping. For the latter method, I recommend submerging the shell in shallow water, making sure your drill is connected to the electricity through a safety plug with an auto-shutoff mechanism.  

Caveat: Shell dust is hazardous to your eyes, sinuses, lungs and skin. Whether you're sanding the surfaces in preparation for gluing or drilling holes, always wear safety glasses, a protective dusk mask and nonporous gloves. Clean up all dust immediately, keeping it well away from children and pets.

Before adding them to your design, protect your shells with a light coat of nontoxic sealant (I like clear, hypo-allergenic nail polish), and you're ready to go.
So, whether you'd rather buy your shells ready-to-use or prefer to go beach combing for your "jewels" ... let's all make some jewelry!

Feeling crafty? Hand harvested beach shells are great for beachy, cottage chic decorating projects - like this wreath I made for my own home.

Need help identifying your found shells? There are hundreds of beautiful books available on the subject, many with eye popping color photos. Me, I'm still relying on this tried and true little hardcover, c. 1939, with its black and white photos. 



Urban Pearl Studio said...

Sooooo envious you live on the ocean. Thank you for sharing your love of shells and how to use them in design.

Jean Sandell said...

Very cool. . .

capitalcitycrafts said...

There is nothing quite like the seaside for inspiration!

jemsbyjb said...

So love the ocean and the many treasures you can find. Thanks Mollie.

SendingLoveGallery said...

great information here, Mollie! love your jewelry and the wreaths you make with shells :)

SatinDollCo said...

Love how your incorporated the shells into the wreath.So cool!

Brooke said...

Great blog post, love what you made with your beach finds!

Jennifer said...

Wow! I learned a lot. Thanks for this information and inspiration.

LoveStoneArts said...

Wonderful! I must ask, did you learn "the ocean out of the shell" trick by experience? We were collecting shells in Mexico a few years back and some cute kids joined us and apparently made some contributions to our tub of shells. You can imagine!!

Gemstones on My Mind said...

Wonderful Mollie! there are so many things to do with seashells! We had to learn the hard way about taking the ocean out of the seashell! Many years ago - 1977. Larry and I moved here to the coast, first day we spent on the beach picking up shells. We had an old Chevy Nova, and we put our seashell finds in the trunk. When we got home, we grabbed our shells out of the trunk, except a couple that had slid behind some trunk things. Later that week the car smelled Horrible. It didn't take long to figure it out, but it took weeks to get that smell out of the car. We couldn't even ride in it without the windows open. Lessons are best learned the hard way - you never forget!