The Paua Shell Comes from the shallow coastal waters surrounding New Zealand. This marine mollusk eats seaweed and lives clinging to rocks at depths of 1-10 meters. Paua is from a species of abalone that has the most colorful of all the abalone shells.
The color in the paua shell changes when viewed at different angles. The black patterns in the shell originate from layers of protein between the layers of calcium that act as framework for the shell. The brilliant colors are a result of light being refracted within the crystalline layers.
New Zealand?s paua fishery is closely managed to maintain a sustainable population. There are strictly enforced fishing regulations limiting the size of paua taken. Paua divers are only permitted to free-dive for paua without the use of any underwater breathing apparatus whatsoever.
The shell is a byproduct of the trade in paua meat, which is a traditional delicacy of New Zealands indigenous population, the Maori. Today, the majority of paua meat is exported to Asia, where abalone is a highly regarded delicacy.
Paua shell was traditionally used by Maori to illuminate the eyes of their carving and artwork. The use of paua shell in all manner of jewellery and sculpture has become a distinctive feature of New Zealand artwork.