Facts on Paua Shell

What is Paua ?
Unique to New Zealand 
Paua is a species of abalone (Haliotis Iris)
It is only found in the sea around New Zealand. This marine mollusk eats seaweed and lives clinging to rocks at depths of 1-10 meters, normally along the shoreline. Paua Shell is the most colorful of all the abalone shells. Most other abalone are pale in comparison. 
The Most Colorful Shell
There is no other shell in the world that has the color like Paua Shell color that varies from greens & pinks to purples & blues and even some shells with gold or crimson tonings.
Iridescent Color
The color in the paua shell changes when viewed at different angles. This iridescence, similar to that of Mother of Pearl shell, but far more brilliant, is what makes paua shell so amazing as a gem material for use in jewellery. It is truly one of nature's marvels. Each shell is different in it's color tonings, and in the patterns within the shell. The black patterns in the shell come from layers of protein that are laid down between the layers of calcium that make up the shell. The brilliant colors are from light being refracted within the crystal layers. The same effect that the iridescent color found in Opals. 
Environmentally Sound
The paua fishery is properly managed is a sustainable way. There is a quota management system and strictly enforced regulations controlling the size of paua taken. The paua divers can only free-dive to pry paua off the rocks. The use of air tanks is prohibited. So although paua stocks have been depleted, the sustainability of this natural resource appears ensured. The shell is a byproduct of catching paua for their meat. By purchasing a piece of paua shell jewellery you are increasing the value of this resource and helping ensure that it continues to be a managed in a sustainable way. 
A Treasured Delicacy
Paua meat is a traditional delicacy for the Maori. Essential for a good wedding feast or celebration. Although it is harder to find that it used to be, most New Zealanders would rate paua up there with oysters as their preferred shellfish. These days most paua meat is exported to Asia, where abalone has always been regarded as one of the supreme delicacies. 
A Traditional Taonga
Paua shell was traditionally used by Maori to illuminate the eyes of their carving and artwork. The reddish colored shell were most prized for depicting the flashing red eyes of the warrior. The use of paua shell in all manner of jewellery and sculpture has become a distinctive feature of New Zealand artwork.