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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS / FAQ

Welcome to FAQ regarding Seashells, Starfish, Books, etc. For admin & Ordering support, please visit our Help Centre.
 

Please click on any of the Quick Links below for some answers to your most frequent questions!

·       What is a Conch Horn? Can I order one?
·       Can I order a Shell 'To Hear The Ocean'?
·       Can I order Chank Shells / Sinistral Shells?
·       What is CITES? Can I order CITES listed species?
·       Can I order Clam Shells?
·       Can I order Coral items?
·       Can I order a Seashell Operculum (what's that)?
·       Can I order Seashells For Kids?
·       Can I order Chank Shells / Sinistral Shells?
·       Can I order Shells for Cichlids / fish breeding / aquarium use?
·       Can I order Something Unlisted Online?
·       Can I trade or exchange Seashells?
·       Can I travel with Seashells?
·       Can I visit / meet you?
·       What's a good Beginner Seashell Book?
·       Can you send me a Catalogue?
·       Can you send me photos of individual Shells?
·       Can you value or buy my Seashell collection?
·       Can I order Paper Nautilus?
·       How best to clean Shells for Aquarium / Cooking Use?
·       How to cook with Seashells?
·       How to Cut Seashells?
·       How to Drill Seashells?
·       How to Paint Starfish?
·       How to Polish Seashells?
·       How to sell my shell Collection?
·       How best to store my Shell Collection?
·       How best to pack Seashells for shipping?
·       What is a 'Decoshell'?
·       What is a 'Scientific Seashell Data Label'?
·       What is 'Specimen Seashell Grading'?
·       Why no photos of Specimen Seashells?
·       Are Cone Shells dangerous? 

 

Can't find your question listed? Email us! If it's a good one, we will add it to the list.

 

What is a Conch Horn? Can I order one?

While we can't offer you a working Conch Horn (a shell as musical instrument), we can offer suitable shells for making one yourself. There are lots of detailed infos online (incl. on YouTube) for making and playing Conch Horns. Typically, anyone who can play i.e. a trumpet / trombone etc. will also be able to play Conch Horn, the technique is very similar. Queen Conch Shell (Strombus gigas from Bahamas) is used most frequently in the US, but they have been a protected species until recently. Along with Strombus gigas, there are other seashell types that make excellent Conch Horns, incl. Giant Helmet Shell (Cassis cornuta), Syrinx Shell (Syrinx aruanus), Giant Bursa Shell (Bursa bufo). Please email us for info and options.



Can I order a shell ‘To Hear The Ocean’?

Yes, some shells seem to produce the faint roaring of the sea when you hold them to your ear, don't they? That's because seashells resonate to ambient noise (see WIKIPEDIA). Some shapes just resonate better than others (i.e. an eardrum or a violin amplify sound waves really well) and seashells are no exception. Some Helmet Shells (Cassidae) naturally have internal structure similar to an eardrum, so they work really well.

Theoretically, the bigger the shell and the more ambient noise there is, the better the effect works. In practice, holding a big, heavy shell to your ear in a very noisy place may be a bit awkward. Try a Red Helmet Shell (Cassis rufa), which is very pretty, colourful, just about the right size to handle comfortably - and works well for resonance (picks up the faintest ambient noise!). When you order, just mention that you would like a shell for this purpose and we will select accordingly.


Can I order Chank Shells / sinistral Shells?

Chank Shells (Turbinella pyrum) are from India and Sri Lanka. We do not import them to Australia and have never seen anyone else who does. 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. This is rare.
- Vamavarta ("left-turned", viewed with the aperture pointing up), aka dextral Shankha, where the shell coils clockwise when viewed from the apex. The majority of all seashells around the world are left-turned or dextral.

According to Hindu faith, a Dakshinavarta (sinistral) Chank Shell symbolises infinite space and is associated with the god Vishnu. The goddess Lakshmi - the consort of Vishnu – resides in a sinistral Shell, which are rare and very desirable for religious ceremonies.  
While we can’t offer you Chank Shells, we do offer beautiful, naturally sinistral Polished Lightning Whelk Shells (Busycon contrarium) sized 8-9" each. See our DECOSHELLS department or email us for more info.



What is CITES? Can I order protected (CITES Listed) species?


CITES (www.cites.org) is the 'Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora', an international Trade agreement between countries. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival by restricting International trade with the listed species. All CITES listed species have been identified as needing protection and so we don't list any of these online - with one exception:
As of January 2017, Nautilus Shells have been listed in Appendix II of CITES, due to a concern of recent overfishing. 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, we won't be offering any 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.

 


Can I order Clam Shells?

This is a frequent query. Most people are looking for a nice big white Clam Shell for decoration. They belong to the family of Giant Clams (Tridacnidae) and unfortunately they are all CITES-listed, protected species. The scientific name for the really big white Clams is Tridacna gigas. If you google for more info, you'll see that you can legally buy a few of them in Australia that have been collected with a license. Note they are hard to get and expensive - and there is 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 casts of real Clam Shells) widely available for interior design / aquarium trade (try eBay!).
There are also beautiful natural seashell alternatives to Clam Shells. Consider if a different shape work for you: We can offer several other giant natural XL or XXL sized Bailer, Syrinx or Giant White Murex Shells. Interested? Just email us for options!


Can I order Coral?

No, sorry - we do not sell coral items. All marine environments are now under increased pressure from pollution and climate change, meaning that coral in general is under threat now, or will shortly be. We sometimes get coral pieces from old collections and give those away for free for educational purposes.



Can I order seashell Operculum?

Yes, we can offer many different types of operculum (aka Operc, Cat's Eye, Shell Doors). We don't list them online, but we do stock them! Most commonly traded opercs are the shell doors of various Turban (Turbo) Shells. They are oval in shape and have a white, bone / ivory - like surface with an embedded dark spiral line on one side, perfect for jewellery. Sometimes this is still covered by an organic brown coating, which will remove easily with boiling or soaking in chlorine bleach. The surface beneath will be pristine.
The reverse side looks quite different, depending on which Turbo Shell it came from. We generally only stock operculi with a good edge and complete spiral side. Please email us with QTY and type of items, so we can send you an offer!



Can I order Seashells for kids?

Yes! Seashells are educational, tactile and exciting objects for Children to discover, explore and play with.
There are some seashell types that are better suited (robust, shiny, tactile) 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..

Safety Notice: There is no safety rating for natural objects like seashells! We do not recommend that toddlers play unsupervised even with the most sturdy shells.


Can I order Shells for Cichlids or fish breeding, to use in my aquarium?

Yes - while we can’t supply the exact species Neothauma tanganyicense (Terrestrial Snail Shells in Africa, Tanganyika) that Cichlids use for breeding in the wild (no import of these to Australia, see Australian Department of Agriculture regulations) - 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?
 

Of course! All you have to do is ask.. If you cannot find what you are looking for online, we may not have gotten around to listing it yet. Still, we may have it lurking in our warehouse (it’s a big warehouse). Please let us know QTY and type of items you seek via email, so we can stock-check and send you an 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 have a trade to offer.


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 shells or starfish you purchase from us out of Australia and into any of the popular wedding & holiday destinations like Bali, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomons, Tonga, Hawaii, etc.

Area exceptions: Currently problematic regions for traveling with shells we know of include Brazil and Argentina, as both countries recently changed their import/export regulations.
Product exceptions:

None of the seashells we list online are CITES-listed (protected), except for Nautilus (no international travel with Nautilus Shells), so please check if your order contains any - that's the only exception.

 

All our shells & starfish products have been treated to be dry and clean; they do not contain any viable organic tissue that could be a problem with quarantine inspections.
We cannot foresee all eventualities and it will be up to the local authorities to allow your shells entry to their country. If in doubt, please take your invoice with you when you travel and have it easily within reach to show if requested.
If you're still uncertain about travelling with shells, please email us. We may be able to ship them directly to their destination for you.


Can I visit / meet you?

Meet us on the road: We annually present specimen shells for sale at trade events around the world. See our current schedule on the News / Info page.

We are an online business, so we don’t have a seashell display, showroom or retail store, but collectors can visit us in Perth by appointment. Please email us!


What's a good Beginner Seashell Book?

Definitely a FAQ: "Where do I start? What's a good general shell book that can help me find good specimens online?"

Most seashell collectors have some seashell books at home. Books provide a rapid overview of thousands of species and their families, along with the correct scientific names and corresponding images. Once armed with the correct name and some basic info on the species (i.e. typical size, colour, location, etc), you'll find and compare individual specimens on the internet much more quickly.

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 (instead of individually), as we may have several hundred specimens in stock per category and cannot possibly post individual images of every item we stock.

Here's 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, incl. over 12000 images, some general information on each species, the scientific name, common name, average size and location.

Encyclopedia Of Marine Bivalves - the companion volume lists non-Gastropods. Together they have now replaced the famous “Compendium Of Seashells" by Abbott & Dance as the most useful set of books on worldwide shells you can own.

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 (and many more!), just have a look at Seashell Books here.


Can you send me a Catalogue?

In short: No printed catalogue, sorry - that's because our stock is constantly changing and expanding. However you can print out anything from our detailed online listings (in over 7000 different categories). We invite you to browse and order from us!

The DECOSHELLS listings (decorative / craft / bulk shells and starfish, etc.) are very detailed with description & image for each item.
The Specimen Shell pricelists are published for easy print out from our website. Go to the Specimen Shells page and click on the links for seashell families. Highlight the section you want to print in any list. Or just print the whole list. Any problems with printing, please email us!


Can you send me photos of individual Shells?

We are not set up for quick individual digital imaging! We work differently:

Bearing in mind that Specimen Seashells are by definition highly individual objects, there is still no better way to evaluate a shell than holding it in your hand and looking at it.

We are offering you a ‘Money Back Guarantee' for all our Specimen Seashell items, which means that you can return any of them for a refund (or online shop credit if you prefer that) to the full value of the item(s) returned, excluding shipping cost. In short, if you do not like the shells we have selected for any reason, you can send them back for a full refund or exchange if you wish.


Can you buy / value my shell collection?

Yes, we buy (and sell) complete collections successfully on a regular basis. We can put you in touch with collectors who successfully sold collections to us previously.

Use our publicly listed pricing to help you get some idea of the potential value of the seashell species in your collection. Note that individual condition of your shells (Grading) and the accuracy of your shell data (Labels) will determine the final value for each item. To evaluate grading and condition, you may need some professional advice, especially if your collection is large. We welcome all queries, so please send us an email anytime.

In the meantime please treat your specimen shells with care and keep the data labels with each item to preserve value.

If you just need a complete and professional valuation of your collection (i.e. for insurance), please ask us via email.


Do you sell Paper Nautilus?

Yes, we offer several species of Paper Nautilus (aka Argonauta) in our Specimen Seashells department - see the Cephalopoda/Nautilus pricelist for details.
If you are unsure which species you would like to order, just google the scientific name to find out what the species looks like. We have each species available in various sizes. All pricing includes the substantial, extremely careful packaging required for these very fragile items to travel safely and arrive intact at your door (incl. double-boxing) - there is no additional handling charge.


How to clean Shells for Aquarium / Cooking use?

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 any seashells with a soft brush, some warm water and soap, then rinse and dry. In general, always treat seashells like fine bone china: No microwave or dishwasher use, don't drop on hard surfaces, no sudden heating/cooling/freezing.

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 deep-cleaning method helps to rid the layered shell structure of any residual animal tissue or possible traces of commercial cleaning agents (i. e. chlorine, alcohol, etc.), dust particles, etc. - all in one go.


How to cook with Seashells?

There are many ways to creatively use seashells (incl. Scallops, Abalone, etc.) in food presentation.
Scallops are also often used for baking or gratins. This requires careful watching of the shell edges, as they may otherwise get burnt (i.e. under a grill).

In general, always treat seashells like fine bone china: No microwave or dishwasher use, don't drop on hard surfaces, no sudden heating/cooling/freezing.

Our Decoshells Deep Dish Scallop or White Scallop Shell types can be used in kitchens in quite the same way as Coquilles St. Jacques - the shape / size / thickness is very similar. Find them listed in our Decoshells section! When ordering, please advise if you would like to use the shells for cooking, so we can select robust shells and trim the brittle shell lips to get them ready for your kitchen.


How to cut Seashells?

Any tool suitable for cutting metal will generally also work for shells; i.e. a saw/file that is suitable for cutting metal will cut shells.
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 edges.


How to 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 gently poke a hole (i.e. for beadwork or jewellery).
Larger shells may need to be drilled - quite easy with the right tools. The main advantage of drilling shells yourself is that you can place the hole exactly where you want it. Small hand-held power drills work best for this (as used for engraving, etc.). They are widely available, along with HSS steel drill bits ( ~ 0.8 or 1mm diameter). In general, anything that cuts metal will also work for seashells (no diamond tools required!).

Don't overheat the material. Drilling at low speed / pressure works best. You can moisten the drill area to reduce dust (i.e. have a shallow dish of water next to you) while you work. Always wear adequate protection when using power tools.


How to paint Starfish?
Natural starfish are pale on the bottom and usually a bit darker on top. If you need a particular coloured starfish (i.e. to match a colour theme), you can easily spray-paint them any colour you like. A single can of paint will cover hundreds of starfish.
Benefits of DIY painting:
- You can create exactly the right shade of colour.
- It's very quick, the whole process takes very little time, as the starfish dry instantly.
- Painting seals all surfaces, so the starfish will be easier to clean in future, long-term.

Flat (non-gloss) spray enamel paint works best - it's available from any hardware store. Always wear protection / old clothing when using spray paint and spread newspaper in a wind-protected spot outside. Spread 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 all paint layers thin. A very fine paint overlay looks completely natural and will dry in mere seconds. Turn starfish over and repeat the process for the top & sides in fine layers, until you are happy with the result.

How to polish Seashells?

Sandpaper suitable for metal can be used to smooth rough edges on a shell. Use increasingly finer grain for sanding (i.e. from 120 to approx. 600 grain). Following that, a rotating brush with a fine sanding paste and finally a wool buff with jeweller’s rouge can be used to smooth and then polish your shell surface. Always wear protection when using power tools and rest the material frequently to keep it from overheating.
If you have no prior experience, consider asking for help at your local jeweller's workshop. Jewellers can advise or even show you how to polish shells, as jeweller’s tools are traditionally used for polishing seashells and mother-of-pearl.


I want to 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 all the time. Even if we're not interested, we may be able to refer you to someone local to you (we know most serious collectors in Australia), so just contact us via email for help and advice..


How to store a shell collection?

Seashells consist to ~ 98% of calcium carbonate, which is vulnerable to acid or acidic environments.

Cabinets: We recommend metal cabinets for long term storage. Museums around the world use metal storage for Natural History collections to avoid the many potential problems associated with wooden cabinets. Shiny shells (i.e. Cowries) have very thin nacre layers that are most vulnerable to acidic environments, but all other seashells will eventually degrade if exposed to acidity. A controlled low humidity helps to lower acid levels, but as seashells naturally contain traces of moisture in their molecular structure, it's not a good idea to dry them out too much. Best advice: Store seashells acid-free, meaning: No wooden cabinets!

Separation: Seashells tend to roll around when stored loosely in drawers. They easily get scratched and so need to be kept from moving around. We recommend:
- Boxes inside drawers (acid-free paper/board, otherwise plastic).
- Long-life PU 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.

 

Maintenance: 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 are acidic to some degree, but can be replaced with acid-free alternatives; even data labels can be printed on acid-free paper!

It won't hurt to give your shells a gentle warm wash with clear water occasionally. Let them dry completely before re-homing them.

You can use a little paraffin oil (i.e. baby oil) to replace lost moisture on many dull shells  (brings back faded colour / pattern), but don't use it on naturally shiny shells like Cowries (Cypraeidae) or Olividae.

Any queries, please email us!


How are seashells packed 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 / recyclable 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 china items). 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 'Decoshell'?

See here: Decoration.

 


What is a  'Specimen Seashell' and what is "Specimen Data'?

See here: Collecting.

 


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. Each category may contain many hundreds of individual shells, so unfortunately we can't possibly photograph each one for you..

Our extensive stock is a primary source for other seashell dealers, who will purchase in bulk from us, based on our 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.

We also sell Specimen Seashells directly to the public. All you need to order from us as a private person is some basic information to help you identify which species you would like to order. You can then simply order from our Specimen Shells listings via the scientific name. We will send you an offer incl. description / grading / price. We also offer a Money-back-Guarantee for all Specimen Shells!


 

 

Are Cone Shells dangerous?

 

Yes and no - a dead Cone Shell won't hurt you - but a living Cone sure can! The animal can retract and hide in the shell, so if you pick up a Cone Shell underwater or on the beach, it's often difficult to tell if it's still alive or not. Cones are predators hunting marine worms and small fish by shooting a hollow radula dart loaded with toxin at their prey. If they inject a human by mistake, this can sting or cause a serious allergic reaction. Worse, some of the prettiest living Cones have toxins that are potentially lethal to humans - see here: wikipedia.org/wiki/Cone_snail So, yes - some Cones can potentially kill you! It would be best to not pick up any Cone Shell in the wild; just leave them alone! See our Pinterest Board for 'Seashells & Science' to find out more on Cone Shell Toxin and why scientists around the world are so excited about them..


More questions? Just email us!

 

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