How to Clean Abalone Shells for Jewelry

Abalone shells can be found at just about any beach and make for a beautiful collectible. However, they are often filled with residue, dirt and grime that reduce the overall luster of the shell. But you can clean the abalone shells you find on the beach to a polished sheen for use in fine pieces of jewelry. The following steps will help your abalone shells sparkle.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Face mask
  • Abalone shells
  • Abalone iron
  • Bowl of water
  • Mild soap
  • Old toothbrush
  • Clear varnish
  • Brush

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Put on your face mask and gloves. Keep them on throughout the entirety of the cleaning process.

Clean the inside of the shell. If there is meat still inside, use an abalone iron to pry it loose from the shell. An abalone iron is a handled piece of metal that's rounded on one end and primarily used to free abalone from shells and rocks for harvesting. Place the iron next to the abalone and lodge it between the shell and the creature, wiggling it around the perimeter of the shell until the gastropod releases.

Rinse the inside of the abalone shell in cold water scrub it with a toothbrush to remove meat particles. Once cleaned and dried, rub the surface with your finger. Any grime or cloudiness should be removed.

Cleaning the outside of the shell is a bit more complicated. Fill a bowl with water and a mild soap and dip the toothbrush in the water before scrubbing the shell's exterior surface. This should get some of the built up dirt and residue off.

Use the abalone iron to break off barnacles and larger growths. Then, give the shell another scrubbing with the toothbrush for good measure.

If some exterior particulates remain, leave the shell under a running faucet for an hour or two. This should help clean away the debris.

Once the shell is cleaned to your liking, coat the outside with a varnish like Varathane. Use your brush to paint on the varnish in a light coat. Let the varnish thoroughly dry before touching.

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