At one time or another, every surfer (or aspiring surfer) worth their cred tries to make their own beachy shell jewelry. It IS part of our primal urge. In fact, some of the earliest known forms of adornment were pierced shells and teeth on handmade string.
But after an hour after the Upper Paleolithic Revolution has worn off within the surfer, then he or she usually gives up and buys it somewhere.
But if you have a flat day of surf, and you’re
feelin’ a bit like Encino Man, here’s three tips I’ve found helpful over time when making shell jewelry…
1. Go to a thrift store for shell beads and pendants first.
I love shell jewelry, but the current shell industry has now over harvested and overbred many species for the trade. I’ll pass on that choice first.
I’ve found MUCH higher quality shell beads among thrift store and vintage finds over purchasing recently grown and cut varieties. I’d rather buy my shells at the better vintage quality whenever possible, rather than contributing even more to the over harvesting problem. It’s kind of how I feel about pearls. Bonus that you can still get a deal at a few thrift stores these days. For now. The beach is always the great option, of course, but you will be drilling these yourself and removing natural items from the beach.
2. Use nylon or wire to string shell beads.
When shells are drilled for sale as beads, rarely is the inside diameter perfectly smooth, unless you pay a premium.
Common shell beads will cut most cotton, hemp, or poly thread like a Ginsu knife. So, get some decent stuff that won’t cut nor fray easily, or your ocean cred probably won’t last da Summer.
Or….I guess you could
say you sliced that freshie shell anklet you made on a shark’s tooth while saving the Mayor’s kid from the deadly riptide, you Gnar Lifeguard????
3. Check your shells for sharp burrs, and file them down before stringing.
I was warned by a lapidary long ago to ALWAYS WEAR A MASK when filing, sanding, or drilling shells. Excellent advice. The calcium carbonate particles are easily inhaled- along with whatever fun stuff that shell has absorbed. Use a bit of water to minimize dust, and go outdoors for the task preferably.
Sharp edges and burrs can often be removed using a decent nail file from the drugstore, a bead reamer from the craft store, or a rotary drill. It’s best to do this BEFORE staring a piece most times. After the piece is finished, it’s difficult to sand some areas typically.
Enjoy trying out all the types of natural shell, seed, and nut beads available. If you really hate doing it yourself, though, this is a good time to plug my Etsy store where I post my random surfy jewelry (including shells), as well as projects and art I like to do. Surprise. I have an Etsy store. I think it’s mandatory for crafters.
Anywho….shell jewelry is cool since it’s nice to have a reminder that there’s a great big ocean out there and we get to be a part of it, if only for a vacation. I mean, that’s one of the beautiful things about surfing, right? Right???