How to Dye a Mother of Pearl Shell

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Mother of pearl shells can be dyed at home.
Mother of pearl shells can be dyed at home. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Mother of pearl is the brightly colored layer of material which forms the shell lining of numerous mollusks, including -- but not limited to -- abalone and pearl oysters. The shells of these mollusks are commonly dyed for decorative purposes. If you have mother or pearl shells, you can take them to a pearl jewelry store to have them dyed. This process can be very expensive, however. Fortunately, you can save money by dyeing mother of pearl shells at home using some common items found at arts and crafts stores.

Things You'll Need

  • Dish washing soap
  • Brush
  • Towel
  • Alcohol-based ink dyes
  • Bowl or plate
  • Ink applicator pads
  • Sponge
  • Stamp pad
  • Gloves

Clean the mother of pearl shell. Pour a little dish washing soap on the shell and brush it under running water using a clean brush. This will help remove any fishy smells, dirt and other small particles. Place the shell on a towel and let it dry for about one hour.

Pour 5 to 6 oz. of alcohol-based ink dye into a small bowl or plate. Dip the ink applicator pad into the ink. Glide the pad firmly over the inner part of the mother of pearl shell. Place the shell on a towel and let it dry for one hour. Add a second coat of ink dye to make the color more intense. You can purchase ink applicator pads and alcohol-based ink dyes at an arts and crafts store.

Dip a small sponge into the bowl of ink dye and apply it to the surface of the outer shell if desired. Glide the sponge firmly across the surface. Push the sponge into any crevices of the outer shell to color these areas as well. Place the shell on a towel and let it dry again for one hour. Apply a second coat of ink dye if necessary.

Add designs to the interior and/or exterior of the mother of pearl shell by using a stamp pad with a design of your choice. These designs might include letters, numbers or images, for example. Apply the ink dye to the stamp pad and stamp the mother of pearl shell. Set the shell aside and let it dry for one more hour.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use gloves when applying the ink dye to the mother of pearl shell in order to prevent stains on your hands.

References

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