Paua Shell - Haliotis Iris
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We have a small group of shells collectively known as paua, unique only to New
Zealand. The group comes from the worldwide family Haliotidae, which contains nearly
130 species from oceans in both tropical and temperate zones. These shellfish have
been used for food since ancient times and have figured largely in the diet of coastal
Maori. Most countries have their own local names, Abalone (North America), Ormer
(Guernsey), Mutton Fish (Australia and early NZ) and Awabi (Japan) being some of the
Paua is the most colourful shell in the world, other abalone have some colour, but not
the brilliance of Paua.
The largest, commonest and best known of our species is the Paua - Haliotis. The
shellfish is black and the interior of the shell has cloudy waves of rainbow colours with
blues and green being dominant. The shells were used by the Maori to add a gleam of
life to the eyes in their carved figures. Today we process them into attractive jewellery
See the Jewelry section on our website for examples of the wonderful items that are
possible to make...
Paua are marine monovalve molluscs that eat seaweed and live clinging to rocks at
depths of 1 - 10 metres. They can be found around most of the NZ rocky shoreline.
However, the larger and finer specimens, are found in the cold waters around Stewart
Island and Southland. This is where we get the shells used in the making of our
jewelry as their color is more vibrant.
The holes in the shell are for breathing and reproduction. Starfish are the Paua's most
formidable predator as they have learnt to suffocate the Paua by putting thei