by Amanda

Amazing Abalone

Abalone is known by a variety of names - including ear shells and muttonshells. In South Africa it is commonly referred to as perlemoen. These edible sea creatures are also found in the cold waters off the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, America and Japan. They are regarded as a delicacy in many parts of the world and this has resulted in overfishing and poaching - drastically reducing the natural population of this prized mollusc. Therefore, commercial farms have been created in order to appease a hungry sea food industry, and to protect the species that is close to extinction.

One reason for the abolone's popularity is its flesh, and another is its beautiful shell. The shell looks similar to an ear and has a reddish brown exterior. Its interior is highly valued since it is made from unique iridescent mother-of-pearl. This is very striking and is used to make jewellery and buttons and as decoration on furniture and musical instruments. The colour can differ drastically from silvery white to pink, red and purple, but the most common colours are shades of blue and green.

The creature holds onto rock with a strong muscular foot and it therefore needs to be levered off. Once off, the process of cutting its shell into different shapes and sizes needs to be done very carefully since the dust particles are particularly dangerous and shouldn't be inhaled. The shell has a unique structure and this makes it incredibly hard and durable. It is ideal, therefore, for making items like abalone bracelets, earrings or pendants. There's little denying though, that the exceptional colour of the mother-of-pearl shell is the fundamental attraction for jewellery designers.

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