What is Hawaiian abalone? This is a question that is often asked by Hawaii visitors, but seldom explained in full detail, because it is an in-depth process that creates one of the world's most beautiful shells because of their incredible and intense variation of color. Abalone shell is an ear-shaped shell that comes from particular marine gastropods. The shells of abalone have a low and open spiral structure, and are characterized by several respiratory holes in a row near the shell's outer edge. The thick inner layer of the shell is composed of nacre or mother-of-pearl, which in many species is highly iridescent, giving rise to a range of strong and changeable colors, which make the shells attractive to humans as decorative objects, and as a source of colorful mother-of-pearl.
The highly iridescent inner portion of abalone shells, known as the nacre layer, is variable from species to species, and usually varies in color from silvery white, to pink, red and green-red, through deep blues, greens and purples.of the shell of abalone has traditionally been used as a decorative item in jewelry, buttons and fishing lures, and as an decorative inlay in furniture and in musical instruments such as guitars, etc. The Abalone pearl, with its scarcity and impending extinction prove itself the ultimate prize for the knowledgeable and informed jewelry collector.
The shell of the abalone is exceptionally strong. It is made of microscopic calcium carbonate tiles stacked like bricks. Between the layers of shells is a clingy protein substance. When the abalone shell is struck, the tiles slide instead of shattering and the protein stretches to absorb the energy of the blow. Material scientists around the world are studying the tiled structure for insight into stronger ceramic products such as body armor, because of the extreme strength that abalone shell is able to wihtstand without breaking. In fact, abalone shell is 3,000 times more break-resistant than the mineral that comprises its building blocks, aragonite.
Hawaii is quickly becoming the abalone producing capital of the world, outpacing competitors in California, Australia and Japan. In fact, one cultured abalone producer alone, the Big Island Abalone Company, located on the Kona Coast of Hawaii produces nearly 40 tons of live abalone per year and houses nearly 2 million abalone shells. Big Island Abalone is an aquaculture business operating in the Hawaii Ocean Sciences and Technology park at Keahole Point on the Big Island. When it reaches full production capacity, the abalone company will produce upward of 100 tons of abalone annually. It's location on Kona is ideal, as kona gets sun exposure year round, which provides sufficient light for kelp, the main feeding nutrient of abalone, to grow without impediment.
Hawaii's location as an abalone producer is excellent, since Hawaii is midway between Asia and
North America, the two main world markets for abalone meat and abalone shell products.
Many cultures, including the Hawaiian culture believe that abalone shell is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. It is used as a meditation tool by followers of yoga, who believe that it positively influences the energy centers (chakras) in the body with its mesmerizing colors and as a result brings harmony and calmness to the soul. Throughout Hawaii, you will likely encounter a variety of local gift shops and jewelers who sell abalone shell jewelry such as abalone pendants, and you will genuinely amazed by the beauty of this natural shell. Comparatively, there are fewer non-jewelry related products than abalone jewelry items themselves, since the majority of abalone shell worldwide is used in the creation of jewelry. Nonetheless, if you find such outlets that carry these items, you'll be impressed at the variety of useful ornamental applications that abalone shell is used for in Hawaii.