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Paua (Haliotis Iris) is one of the lasting symbols of life in New Zealand. Whether it is in our art, jewelry or tacky souvenirs, paua makes its presence known at all places. So, although it is one of our national symbols, how much do we really know about the life history of paua? 

Did you know about Paua Shells?

The brilliant light emanating from the Paua shell, along with incredible patterns in it, came from crystal layers created that are created due to the protein and calcium present in them.


In Maori language, paua is the name given to abalone (Haliotis Iris). This shellfish is only found in New Zealand coastal waters. On average, paua is about five inches in size and is mostly oval shaped. There are two main uses of paua. First, it is harvested for meat, which is considered a traditional Maori delicacy; Secondly, the shell is used for making jewelry and other gift items.

Where can Paua be found? 

Pauas live around New Zealand's rocky coast and are found at or below the level of the lowest spring tide, that is, at a depth of between one and 12 metres. Much of the paua used for gemstone purposes are wild-caught, under license and extremely strict quota. They can only be caught by free diving - no scuba is allowed - and only a certain number may be fished at any one time, all of which help to keep stocks of paua healthy. Moreover, they may not be caught unless they measure a minimum of 125 mm in the longest part of the shell, which they usually reach at the age of about six years.


What is the meaning of paua?

The world over, there are more than a hundred abalone varieties. However, paua is the most sought-after of these. This is due to the vibrant, attractive, and iridescent color of its shell; They come in many colors ranging from green and blue, to pink, purple, and yellow. Traditionally, these shells were used by Maori to highlight the 'eyes' in their artwork. For example, when it came to rage in the eyes of warriors, the red paua shell has been used. Many of New Zealand's traditional and contemporary crafts were created using these shells even today. In addition, paua shell is always an indispensable part of jewelry making in New Zealand. 


It is believed that all abalone varieties (including paua) strengthen the body as well as the heart. That's one reason why Māori often give each other paua shells. According to them, this shell brings luck, prosperity, and peace to the wearer. Medicinal legends say that these shells were used to treat a number of diseases and health conditions. Lack of calcium, hearing problems, nervous system disorders, etc., are some conditions that were treated with paua shells.

The pieces of paua shell, used to make jewelry, are mainly popular due to the unique interaction of colors that one gets to see on their surface. These shells change in color every time they are viewed from a different perspective. To highlight the true beauty of these shells, they are first polished and then used in the accessories making.


Paua is also used as a theme in many weddings. Invitations, decorations, and even cakes - everything is planned to remember the beautiful colors of paua.

Paua shells are unique, beautiful, and considered extremely lucky. Whether this is true or just a traditional story passed down through generations, no one knows.

See more: 

The Best Maori Paua Shell Collection Collection  

How to Experience Maori Culture

Māori – One Of the Most Captivating Cultures In the World!

New Zealand article

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