Possessing a wonderfully organic exoticism, shells used in jewelry connote tropical lands and vibrant underwater seascapes. Recent developments in dying techniques have also produced colour profiles that carry seashells into new aesthetic territory, while preserving the beautiful natural patterns and striking lustre that shells are known for. A number of shells bear an iridescent sheen that should seem familiar: it is caused by the presence of nacre, aka mother of pearl, and is responsible for the same velvety gleam that characterizes pearls.
Most seashells come from mollusks like oysters, and can be found in a plethora of sizes and shapes. They are made of nacre, silica, bone, chitin, or cartilage depending on the animal. Shell varieties are wildly diverse, and come in just about as many different styles as there are different kinds of types of mollusk. For example, abalone shells are prized for their amazing natural rigidity and startling shimmer. For this reason, abalone shells are frequently used for decorative guitar inlays as well as jewelry. Cowry (or cowrie) shells also have an interesting profile: they were once actually used as a kind of currency in Ghana.