FAQ

Welcome to Frequently Asked Questions!
 
For admin support, please visit our Help Centre
Please click on any of the Quick Links below for Seashell & Starfish related info. 
 
·       Can I Order A Conch Horn?
·       Can I Order A Shell 'To Hear The Ocean'?
·       Can I Order Chank Shells / Sinistral Shells?
·       Can I Order CITES Listed Species?
·       Can I Order Clam Shells?
·       Can I Order Coral?
·       Can I Order Seashell Operculi?
·       Can I Order Seashells For Kids?


Can't find your question listed? Try SEARCH (at the top of each page).
 
 
 
 
 
Can I Order A Conch Horn?
 
We do not sell working Conch Horns - but it is not difficult to DIY - see info on making and playing Conch Horns on youtube.  
Typically, anyone who can play i.e. a trumpet or trombone can also play a Conch Horn.
 
'Queen Conch' (Strombus gigas), a commercial species from the Bahamas is often used for this. As they have been on the list of protected species until recently, we don't list them for sale. 
There are several other seashell types that make excellent Conch Horns.
We can offer:

- Giant Helmet Shell (Cassis cornuta) 
- Syrinx Shell (Syrinx aruanus) – see also Specimen Seashells MELONGENIDAE
- Giant Bursa Shell (Bursa bufo) – see Specimen Seashells RANELLIDAE
 
If you would like to order a Conch Horn shell, please email us for info and options.

 
 

Can I Order A Shell ‘To Hear The Ocean’?
 
Yes - some seashells resonate to ambient noise  (see WIKIPEDIA).
While some shapes resonate much better than others (think of a violin body), seashells belonging to the Cassidae family (Helmet Shells) have internal structure similar to a human eardrum (which evolved to amplify noise).
 
Theoretically, the bigger the shell and the more ambient noise there is, the better the effect works.  
But in practice, holding a big, heavy shell to your ear may be a bit awkward! 
We recommend a Cassis Shell like the Red Helmet Shell (Cassis rufa), which is quite gorgeous, just about the right size to handle comfortably - and which works well to demonstrate the sound effect (if there is some ambient noise). 

Please email us if you need a shell for this purpose, so we can select accordingly.

 
 
 
Can I Order Chank Shells / Sinistral Shells?
 
Chank Shells (Turbinella pyrum) are from India and Sri Lanka. We have not found anybody who imports them to Australia.
 
Our customers tell us that Chank (or Shankha) has two varieties, based on its direction of coiling. They are:
- Dakshinavarta ("right-turned", viewed with the aperture pointing up), aka sinistral Shankha, where the shell coils counterclockwise, viewed from the apex.
- Vamavarta ("left-turned", viewed with the aperture pointing up), aka dextral Shankha, where the shell coils clockwise when viewed from the apex. Most seashells around the world are left-turned or dextral.
 
In Hindu faith, a Dakshinavarta (sinistral) Shankha symbolises infinite space and is associated with the god Vishnu. The goddess Lakshmi - the consort of Vishnu – resides in a sinistral Shankha. Such a sinistral shell is rare and very desirable for religious ceremonies. 
 
While we can’t offer you Chank Shells, we
import beautiful, sinistral Lightning Whelk Shells (Busycon contrarium) in 2 varieties:

-        Natural Lightning Whelk LG (8-9”)
-        Polished Lightning Whelk LG (8-9”)
 
Find these shells in the DECORATORS department, or type the name into the search field.

 
Can I Order CITES Listed Species?
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival by restricting or prohibiting International trade with CITES listed species. CITES listed species have been identified as needing protection and we don't list any of these online - with one exception:
 
As of January 2017, Nautilus have been listed in Appendix II of CITES.
We do still have a few examples of Nautilus Shells (Polished, Natural and Cut Shells) available in our DECOSHELLS and COLLECTOR departments. Once they are gone, there will be no more (and that's how it should be). If you wish to order any Nautilus, please be advised that we can ship these anywhere in Australia, but we will not export or ship internationally. 
 
This is the only exception. Anything else you can buy from us we can ship worldwide - also ok for you to travel with and export from Australia.
 
 
 
 
Can I Order Giant Clam Shells?
 
No, we don't offer Giant Clams (family TRIDACNIDAE) for sale - they are CITES-listed protected species.

The scientific name for the really big Clams is Tridacna gigas. You can legally buy a few of them in Australia that have been collected with a license. They are hard to get and expensive; besides which the international trade is still restricted (no legal import or export to and from Australia).
 
If you are just looking for the big Clam shape, there are now realistic looking fake Clams (resin cast of real Clams) available i.e. for interior design and the aquarium trade (see eBay).

Alternatively, if you would prefer to buy a big natural seashell and would also consider a different shape, we can offer you several other XL or XXL sized shells, such as Bailer, Syrinx or Giant White Murex.

Please email us for options.
 
 
 
Can I Order Coral?
 
No, sorry - we do not sell coral.
All marine environments are now under increased pressure from pollution and climate change, meaning that all types of coral in general are under threat – or if not now, they will shortly be. 
 

Can I Order Seashell Operculi?
 
Yes, we can offer many types of operculum (aka operc, Cat's Eye - a shell door) although we never have enough to list them online.
Most commonly traded opercs are the shell doors of various Turban (Turbo) Shells.

Turbo Shell doors are oval in shape and have a white, bone-like surface with an embedded dark spiral line on one side. Sometimes this is still covered by an organic brown coating, which will remove easily by boiling or with a soak in chlorine bleach. The surface beneath will be pristine.
The reverse side looks quite variable, depending on the Turbo species it came from.
We generally only stock operculi with a good spiral side (complete, with good edge).

Would you like to order any operculi? Let us know QTY and type of items you seek via email, so that we can send you a Custom Order Offer.

 
 
 
Can I Order Seashells For Kids?
 
Yes! Seashells are educational, tactile and exciting objects for Children to discover, explore and play with.
 
Safety Notice:
There is no safety rating for natural objects like seashells! We do not recommend that toddlers play unsupervised even with the most robust of shells. 
 
There are some seashell types that are better suited for kids than others. Please email us for recommendations based on your child’s age and the type of play activity you have in mind.
 
 

Can I Order Shells For Cichlids?

Yes - while we can’t supply Neothauma tanganyicense (Terrestrial Snail Shells in Lake Tanganyika), which Cichlids use for breeding in the wild (no import of these to Australia, see Australian Department of Agriculture) - we can offer you a range of similarly shaped and sized, extremely lightweight Landsnail Shells that we have supplied successfully before to happy Cichlids.
Some owners reported that their fish promptly started breeding as soon as they were given shells.

To offer the fish a selection of shells (they enjoy rearranging them), we usually pre-select a suitable Mix of slightly variable shells in batches of 12 pcs. @ $ 30.00 per Mix. Just email us for details!

 
 
 
Can I Order Something Unlisted Online?

If you cannot find what you are looking for online, we may not have gotten around to listing it yet. However, it may well lurk in our warehouse (it’s a big warehouse).
 
Let us know QTY and type of items you seek via email. We may be able to send you a Custom Order Offer.

 
 
 

Can I Trade / Exchange Seashells?
 
Yes, we are always interested in trading for very good quality Cypraeidae, Conidae, Volutidae – or any rare or newly described species. We will exchange for those virtually anything we list online. Please contact us via email if you wish to offer a trade.

 
 
Can I Travel With Seashells?
 
Yes, seashells travel all the time. 
People ship shells around the world and our customers take shells and starfish overseas as gifts, or travel with them to weddings and parties. There are no problems with taking our products to any of the popular wedding & holiday destinations like Bali, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomons, Tonga, Hawaii, etc.
 
Currently problematic regions for traveling with shells we know of may be Brazil and Argentina, as both countries recently changed their import/export regulations.
 
Our shells & starfish products have been treated to be dry and clean; they do not contain any viable tissue (obvious when spot-checking). None of the seashells we list online are CITES-listed (protected), except for Nautilus (you cannot travel internationally with Nautilus Shells), so please check if your order contains any - this is the only exception.
Nobody can foresee all eventualities and it will be up to the local authorities to allow your shells entry to their country. We recommend that you take your invoice with you when you travel and have it easily within reach to show if requested. 
 
If you still feel uncertain about traveling with shells, perhaps we can ship them for you? Any queries, please ask us via email anytime.
 
 
Can I Visit Or Meet You?
 
Meet us on the road: We annually present specimen shells for sale at trade events around the world. See the UPCOMING EVENTS link for our upcoming schedule.

We don’t have a seashell display, showroom or retail store, but collectors can visit us in Perth by appointment.

Please contact us by email if you would like to visit us.
 
 
 
Can You Recommend A Seashell Book For Beginners?
 
Unless you are already an experienced collector, your main problem will be: Where do I start? Is there a good general shell book that can help me find good specimens online?
 
Most seashell collectors have some seashell books at home. Books provide an overview of hundreds of species and their families, along with the correct scientific names and corresponding images.
With the correct spelling of the name and some basic info on the species, it’s much easier and quicker to find availability and prices of individual specimens on the internet.
 
There is still no alternative to a good seashell book, as many Specimen Seashells online are listed by scientific name / author only. We are listing our Specimens in categories (without individual images).
We may have several hundred specimens in stock per category and cannot possibly publish specific images of every seashell we are offering online. 
 
A good general book on worldwide shells:
 
Encyclopedia Of Marine Gastropods
by Robin, 2008 (French shell club AFC and Conchbooks Publishing)
A great book for beginners and advanced shell collectors alike; the most comprehensive up-to-date guide to worldwide Gastropod shells currently available.
It includes over 12000 images plus updated taxonomy, some general information on each shell, incl. scientific name, common name, average size and location - see here.
 
Encyclopedia Of Marine Bivalves is the companion volume, listing non-Gastropods. Together they have now replaced “Compendium Of Seashells" by Abbott & Dance as the most useful set of books on worldwide shells you can own - see here.
 
If you want to focus on just one particular group of shells (i.e. just Cowries) – or one region (i.e. just Australia), we also have excellent books on those subjects.
You can browse all our books online by keyword or subject - just go to BOOKS and use the Filter / SEARCH options in the header section. 
 
 
Can You Send Me A Catalogue?
 
We don’t produce printed catalogues! 
Our stock is constantly changing and expanding, so it would be very difficult for us to keep a printed catalog of seashells up-to-date. Our internet business sells decorative and specimen seashells to the general public, private collectors and other dealers. We also offer specimen shells for sale at various International Shell Shows every year.  
 
You can print out any (or all!) of the current specimen shell pricelists from our website. Find the COLLECTORS menu on our website for all the different seashell families.
Click on any shell family and then highlight the section you want to print.
 
Any problems with printing? Please email us.
 
 
Can You Send Me Photos Of Individual Shells?
 
Unfortunately we cannot help you with images of individual shells at present - we are not set up for quick individual digital imaging. We only occasionally list Special Seashell Offers here.
 
 
 
Can You Ship To My Destination?
 
Please check with Australia Post – if Australia Post ships to your country, we can ship there, too.
 

Can You Value My Seashell Collection?
 
You are always welcome to use our publicly listed prices to help you get some idea of the value of the seashell species in your collection. Individual condition and accurate data may help determine the final value of each item, so it's important to treat all specimen shells carefully and to keep all data labels.

 
For a complete and professional valuation of your collection (i.e. for insurance) you will need to make an appointment with our specimen shell expert Hugh.
Please contact us via email for all valuation enquiries.
 
 
 
Do you sell Paper Nautilus?
 
Yes, several species of Paper Nautilus (or Argonauta) are available in the Collectors Specimen Seashells department - see Cephalopoda.
If you are unsure which species you would like to order, you can always google the scientific name to find out what the species looks like. We list available species in various sizes, so make sure you select your desired size before you order.
Note: We always double-box Paper Nautilus shells for shipping, so they travel safely.
 
 
 

How Do I Clean Shells for Aquarium / Cooking Use?
 
All our shells are stored in a big warehouse and they may still be dusty when you receive them.

For a quick clean, you can just scrub seashells with a soft brush, some warm water and soap.
 
If you want to ensure they are as squeaky clean as possible, place all the shells in a large pot of cold clean water and put this to a light boil for about 10 minutes.
The boiling won't harm the shells, but it's important to allow them to heat up and cool down gradually, as they otherwise might crack.
This method helps to rid shells of any residual animal tissue or any possible traces of commercial cleaning agents (i. e. chlorine, alcohol, etc.), dust particles, etc. - all in one go. 
 
 
How Do I Cook With Seashells?
 
There are many ways to creatively use any seashells (incl. Scallops, Abalone, etc.) in food presentation. 
 
Scallops are also often used for baking or gratins. This requires some care, as shell edges tend to get quickly too hot (i.e. under a grill). 
Generally always treat seashells like fine bone china: No microwave or dishwasher use, don't drop on hard surfaces, no sudden heating/cooling/freezing.
 
Our Decorator Shells Deep Dish Scallop or White Scallop Shell can be used in kitchens in the same way as Coquilles St. Jacques - the shape / size / thickness is very similar.
Please find them listed in our Decorator department and advise us when ordering if you would like to use the shells for cooking.
We will choose only robust shells and may trim the brittle shell lips a little to prepare them for your kitchen.
 
 
How Do I Cut Seashells?
 
Cutting shells can be done with a hand saw that is suitable for cutting metal.
Obviously always wear adequate protection when using power tools. Wet the area to keep dust to a minimum while you work. Sandpaper suitable for metal can be used to smooth the cutting edge.
 
 
How Do I Drill Seashells?
 
Not all shells need drilling - for small, thin shells, often a sharp needle / awl (i.e. attached to a handle) may be used to poke a hole (i.e. for beadwork or jewellery). 
 
Larger shells may need to be drilled.
The main advantage of drilling shells yourself is that you can place the hole exactly where you want it.
DIY drilling of seashells is not difficult. Small hand-held power drills work best for this (similar as used for engraving, etc.) and are widely available, along with HSS steel drill bits ( ~ 0.8 or 1mm diameter). Generally, anything that cuts metal will also work for seashells (no diamond tools required).
 
Obviously always wear adequate protection when using power tools. 
Drilling at low speed / pressure works better and keeping the drill area as cool as possible is always a good idea.
Wet the area to reduce drill dust - i.e. have a small dish of water next to you for dipping your drill.
 
 
How Do I Paint Starfish?

Natural starfish are pale on the bottom and a bit darker on top.
If you would like a particular colour of starfish (i.e. to match a colour theme), you can just spray-paint them any colour you like. A single can of paint will cover hundreds of starfish. 
 
Benefits of DIY painting:
- You can paint exactly the right colour.
- It's very quick, the whole process takes very little time, as starfish will dry instantly.

- Lacquering seals all surfaces, so starfish will be easier to clean and will have no smell.
 
Best for this is flat (non-gloss) spray enamel paint. Always wear protection / old clothing when using spray paint and spread newspaper in a wind-protected spot outside.
Lay starfish on a few sheets, upside down first. Paint your items very lightly, while moving the can at approx. 30 cm distance. Repeat to achieve the right shade, keeping paint layers thin. A fine overlay looks completely natural and the paint will dry in seconds.  
Turn starfish over and thinly paint the top & sides in fine layers, until you are happy with the result. 
 

How Do I Polish Seashells?
 
Sandpaper suitable for metal can be used to smooth rough edges on a shell. Use increasingly finer grain for sanding (to approx. 600 grain). Following that, a rotating brush and finally a wool buff with jeweller’s rouge can be used to smooth and then polish your shell. Always wear protection when using power tools and rest the material frequently to keep it from overheating.
 
Alternatively, ask a jeweler for help - jeweler’s tools are traditionally used for polishing seashells and mother-of-pearl.

 

How Do I Sell My Shell Collection?
 
If you have a shell collection you are thinking of selling, we would certainly be interested in hearing about it. Buying complete collections from around Australia is something we do regularly.
Please contact us via email for more information. 

 
 
How Do I Store My Shell Collection?
 
Cabinets: We recommend metal cabinets for long term storage. Museums around the world use metal storage for Natural History collections to avoid potential problems associated with wooden cabinets.
 
Acidity and humidity levels in natural wood affect shiny shells (i.e. Cowries) first, as they have the most vulnerable nacre layers. However, all seashells will eventually degrade over time if exposed to acidity. A controlled low humidity level will help to delay damage, but as seashells naturally contain traces of moisture in their molecular structure, they may crack if they dry out too much.
The very best advice is to store seashells acid-free, which means: No wooden cabinets.
 
Individual Storage: Seashells tend to roll around when stored loosely in drawers. They easily get scratched and so need to be kept from moving around.
You can use: 
- Boxes inside drawers (acid-free paper/board, otherwise plastic).
- Long-life PVA anti-skid matting to line drawers (Note: Do not use foam, as it will degrade over time). 
- Plastic dividers to create sections.
 
A combination of the above will accommodate a very wide range of shell sizes.
Take a critical look at your collection. Remove and discard all organic packaging or storage material, such as cotton wool (incl. from opercs), old matchboxes, cardboard, etc. All those materials contain acids and can be replaced with acid-free alternatives; even data labels can be printed on acid-free paper.
 
It probably wouldn't hurt to give your shells a gentle warm wash with mild soap and a good rinse while you're at it and let them dry completely before re-homing them. 
 
 

How Do We Pack Seashells For Shipping?

We box all shipments inside your eParcel satchel prior to shipping.
Very fragile items (i.e. Nautilus) may be double-boxed, also depending on the other items they are shipped with. We always aim to use recycled materials for shipping where possible (cardboard, paper, bio-degradeable foam beads, etc.).

Shells other than bulk items are individually wrapped and padded to protect potentially fragile areas; starfish are usually packed flat between paper layers.

Handling seashells and starfish for packaging takes time and care (not unlike packing glass or fine bone china). As we are including packaging cost in our item pricing, there is no additional handling surcharge when you order. All quoted shipping costs represent delivery charges paid to 3rd party providers (i.e. Australia Post) - we don't charge additional fees.

 

What Is A 'Decorator Seashell'?

Natural or polished / pearlised Seashells, Starfish, Sea Urchins and other related, ungraded items, intended for Decoration. See more info here!

 

What Is 'Specimen Seashell Data'?

Specimen Seashells are individually packaged with Data Labels.

 

What Is 'Specimen Seashell Grading'?

Selected Seashells for Collectors are individually graded to International Grading Terms for worldwide trading.

 

Why don't we photograph Specimen Seashells?

We are offering Collector's Specimen Seashells in Category Listings online. Our extensive stock, located in Australia is a primary source for other Seashell Dealers, who are happy to purchase based on careful and accurate category descriptions. We can offer Discounts for large order volumes (incl. multiple QTY per species) and aim to keep our prices low, so it would be counter-productive to post images of individual items. We also sell Specimen Seashells directly to the public. All private collectors need to order from us is some basic information (i.e. General Reference Seashell Book) to enable ordering Specimen Shells via scientific name.

Need help? Just email us!