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Everything You Need to Know About Spiny Oyster Jewelry

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Everything You Need to Know About Spiny Oyster Jewelry

Everything You Need to Know About Spiny Oyster Jewelry

Did you know that the oldest jewelry in the world is over 100,000 years old? It was uncovered in Israel and is made out of shell beads. Even in ancient times, the beauty of the sea was an inspiration to people!

Nowadays, many different kinds of jewelry feature shells and other aquatic goodies. You might be familiar with pearls, puka shells, and sea glass. But have you heard of spiny oysters?

Spiny oyster jewelry is made from the spiny oyster shell, which is colorful and has an eye-catching texture. Keep reading below for more information about this unique style of jewelry.

About Spiny Oyster Jewelry

Spiny oyster jewelry comes from the shell of the spiny oyster. This shell contains natural stripes and color variations, which create a beautiful effect in jewelry pieces. It is used to make beads, pendants, earrings, and more.

It's not just stripes that make the spiny oyster eye-catching. The bright colors found in spiny oyster shells also contribute to their popularity. Each oyster's shell color varies depending on where it lives in the ocean.

Oysters that live close to the surface usually have lighter coloring. Their shells are white, yellow, and light orange. In deeper water, shells are red, dark orange, and purple.

Oysters' diets can affect their coloring, too. The minerals in the water where they live also have an effect.

Purple is the rarest and most valuable shell color. Yellow shells are also rare.

Long spiky quills cover the spiny oyster shell. That's where the oysters get their name! They are also sometimes called thorny oysters.

Their scientific name, "spondylus," literally means "spines on the back."

Despite their name, spiny oysters are not actually a kind of oyster. They are a species of mollusk and they are related to scallops. In the ocean, they live in sandy spots or attach themselves to rocks and other hard surfaces.

Spiny oyster quills are filed away when the oysters are processed. The final product is a smooth, colorful piece of shell.

Some people mistake spiny oyster shells for coral or stone. It may not be stone, but the shell is durable and long-lasting!

Where Spiny Oysters Are Found

Spiny oysters live in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Ocean, and in western portions of the Atlantic Ocean. They are commonly harvested in the Gulf of California, which is near Mexico's Baja Peninsula. In these warm waters, spiny oysters have especially vibrant shells.

To harvest spiny oysters, divers have to descend 30 to 150 meters down into the ocean. They then pick the oysters by hand and collect them in nets.

While the oyster shells are perfect for jewelry, the meat inside is actually edible. However, spiny oysters eaten out of season could be poisonous.

Some artisans take apart old pieces of spiny oyster jewelry and use these materials to create new pieces. Because spiny oyster jewelry dates back to ancient times, there is plenty of old jewelry that resourceful artisans can reuse in this way.

Styles of Spiny Oyster Jewelry

Spiny oyster is often used in southwest-style jewelry. The earthy tones found in the spiny oyster shell pair beautifully with southwestern styles. Spiny oyster and turquoise jewelry are often worn together for a vibrant effect.

Because of its bright colors, spiny oyster shell is commonly used in statement pieces, chunky jewelry, and other bold styles.

Spiny oyster pendants, rings, and brooches are often set in silver. When paired with silver and turquoise, spiny oyster looks both modern and classic.

These shells are a staple in Native American jewelry styles. This is because indigenous people have been using them to make jewelry for centuries. Many popular artisans who work with spiny oyster are of Navajo descent.

Some cultures believe that spiny oyster shell has calming properties. Others believe that it enhances awareness. You can consider this when you are deciding when and how to wear spiny oyster jewelry!

History of the Spiny Oyster

Spiny oyster harvesting has a long history. Thousands of years ago, spiny oyster shells held cultural significance for indigenous people in what is now South America, Central America, and the southwest region of the United States.

Archaeologists have found evidence of spiny oyster use in civilizations that date back as far as 4200 BCE.

These populations harvested spiny oysters for food and for use in rituals. Some used the shells as a form of currency. And, just like we do today, they used pieces of spiny oyster shells in their jewelry.

Spiny oyster shell jewelry and shell beads were hot commodities. They were extensively traded in some areas, including modern-day Ecuador and Bolivia. 

The Quechua people presented spiny oysters as offerings to their gods. The Inca used spiny oyster shells as offerings too. They believed that the shells could help bring rain and bountiful harvests.

The Inca kept their temples stocked with spiny oyster shells. In their society, one person had the special job of monitoring temples' shell supplies.

In those times, divers harvested spiny oysters much as they do today. They dived into the ocean and harvested oysters by hand. Then, they collected them in nets and hauled their nets up to boats. Of course, they did this without any of the technology that makes underwater exploration safe for modern divers!

Native American divers were depicted on ancient pottery and in murals uncovered by archaeologists. Today, some Ecuadorian divers still use ancient techniques. They dive for spiny oyster shells without using oxygen tanks or other modern technology.

Order From Us Today!

We offer a wide variety of beautiful spiny oyster jewelry pieces. Our spiny oyster comes from the coast of Ecuador. If you're interested in spiny oyster earrings, beads, rings, or pendants, our collection has something for you. These pieces are perfect for anyone who is looking to add a pop of color to their wardrobe!

If you have any questions about our jewelry, please reach out. We have been creating handmade jewelry since 2003. We're sure we can help you find something that's perfect for you!

Spiny Oyster Shell/ Spondylus – Onobird

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