What Is Abalone and What Is It Used For?
Abalone is a type of mollusc belonging to the class Gastropoda. An abalone is a univalve, meaning that it has one shell. The shell of an abalone is a slightly flatted whorl, resembling an ear, with a slightly elevated apex at the center of the spiral. It is a flattened sea snail which inhabits coastal waters across the world.
The spiral seen in most sea snails is not easily seen in abalone, as it remains flat and open. The abalone shell is thickened with layers of nacre (mother-of-pearl) – iridescent layers of plates of a mineral called aragonite. Most abalone host seaweeds and smaller mollusks on their shells for camouflage. Abalones live on or under rocks to which they can cling tightly to avoid being washed away.
The meat (foot muscle) of abalone is used for food, and the shells of abalone are used as decorative items and as a source of mother of pearl for jewelry, buttons, buckles, and inlay in furniture and in musical instruments such as on fret boards and binding of guitars, etc. Abalone pearl jewelry is very popular in New Zealand and Australia, in no minor part due to the marketing and farming efforts of pearl companies.
Unlike the Oriental Natural, the Akoya pearl, and the South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls, abalone pearls are not primarily judged by their roundness. The inner shell of the abalone is an iridescent swirl of intense colours, ranging from deep cobalt blue and peacock green to purples, creams and pinks. Therefore, each pearl, natural or cultured, will have its own unique collage of colours. The shells of abalone are occasionally used in New Age smudging ceremonies to catch falling ash. They have also been used as incense burners.