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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?
·       Can I order a Seashell Operculum?
·       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 buy or value my Seashell collection?
·       Do you sell Paper Nautilus?
·       How do I 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 don't you photograph 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?

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 very pretty and colourful, just about the right size to handle comfortably - and which works well to demonstrate the sound effect (provided 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. 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 Shankha. Sinistral shells are rare and very desirable for religious ceremonies.  
While we can’t offer you Chank Shells, we do 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.



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 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, we won't be offering any others (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?

You'll probably want a nice big white Clam Shell, aka 'Giant Clam' (family TRIDACNIDAE). It's a frequent query and unfortunately they are all 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 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 beautiful natural XL or XXL sized seashells, such as Bailer, Syrinx or Giant White Murex. Let us know if you're interested.


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 Operculum?

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 may look 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 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 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 robust of 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 Lake 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, it may well lurk in our warehouse (it’s a big warehouse). Please let us know QTY and type of items you seek via email, so we can take a look 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 our products to any of the popular wedding & holiday destinations like Bali, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomons, Tonga, Hawaii, etc.

There are exceptions however: Currently problematic regions for traveling with shells we know of may be Brazil and Argentina, as both countries recently changed their import/export regulations.
What you need to know:
All our shells & starfish products have been treated to be dry and clean; they do not contain any viable tissue (obvious when 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.
We cannot 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 / 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.

In Australia, 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.


What's a good Beginner Seashell Book?

Unless you are already an experienced collector, your main problem will be: 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) it’s easy to find and compare 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 (no individual images), as we may have several hundred specimens in stock per category and cannot possibly publish individual images of every item.

A good general book on worldwide shells - find it listed on our Books page:

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, see more info on Seashell Books here.


Can you send me a Catalogue?

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. In short: No printed catalogue, sorry. However you can order online! We sell decorative and specimen seashells to the general public, private collectors and other dealers. We also offer specimen shells and books for sale at various national and International Shell Shows every year.
You can print out any (or all!) of the current specimen shell pricelists from our website. See links for all the different seashell families.
Click on any shell family and then highlight the section you want to print. If you encounter any problems with printing, please email us.


Can you send me photos of individual Shells?

This is not the way we work - we are not set up for quick individual digital imaging! We make an exception only for images of really rare, unusual shells or where unusual circumstances apply.

Our philosophy is a different one: We acknowledge that Specimen Seashells are by definition highly individual objects and 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?

You are always welcome to use our publicly listed prices informally to help you get some idea of the value of the seashell species in your collection. However, the individual condition of your shells and the accuracy of your specimen data will determine the final value. It's important to treat all specimen shells carefully and to keep all data labels with each item. For that, you will need some professional help, especially if the collection is large.
 

We buy (and sell) complete collections all the time (since 1996!) and can put you in touch with other collectors who successfully sold collections to us (for references) if you wish.
 

If you don't wish to sell but 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 and all our pricing includes the substantial, 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?

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 to 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 careful watching of the shell edges, as they may get too hot very quickly (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 the same way as Coquilles St. Jacques - the shape / size / thickness is very similar. You can find them listed in our Decoshells section. Please advise during ordering if you would like to use the shells for cooking - we will select accordingly for robust shells and may trim the brittle shell lips to prepare them for your kitchen.


How to cut Seashells?

Any tool suitable for cutting metal will generally also work for shells (i.e. 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 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.
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 best and keeping the drill area as cool as possible is always a good idea.
Wet the drill area to reduce dust - i.e. have a shallow dish of water next to you for dipping your drill.


How to paint Starfish?
Natural starfish are pale on the bottom and usually a bit darker coloured 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 create exactly the right shade of colour.
- It's very quick, the whole process takes very little time - starfish will dry instantly.
- Painting seals all surfaces, so starfish will be easier to clean.

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. 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 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 to 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 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 experience, perhaps it would be best if you ask your local jeweller for help and advice. 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! Please contact us via email for more information.


How to store my 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 potential problems associated with wooden cabinets. Shiny shells (i.e. Cowries) have very thin, vulnerable nacre layers and will dull in in acidic environments first, but eventually all seashells will degrade over time 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, as they may crack. The very best advice is to store seashells acid-free: 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 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.
Maintenance: It probably wouldn't hurt to give your shells a gentle warm wash with clear water while you're at it and let them dry completely before re-homing them.


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 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 '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 we can't possibly photograph each one..

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, so it would also be counter-productive to post images of individual items for that reason.

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. You can then simply order from our Specimen Shells listings via the scientific name. We will send you an offer incl. description / grading / price. BTW - we also offer a Money-back-Guarantee for all Specimen Shells!


 

 

Are Cone Shells dangerous?

 

Yes and no! Empty Cone Shells won't hurt you - but the living animals inside Cone Shells 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 hard to tell if it's still alive or not. They are predators hunting marine worms and small fish by producing a toxin, which they can inject with a dart. If they inject a human by mistake, this can sting or cause a serious allergic reaction. Worse, some of the prettiest live Cones have toxins that are potentially lethal to humans - so always be careful if you pick up a Cone Shell in the wild!

There's another side to this - research into many Cone toxins shows potential for developing a pain killer stronger than morphine that has no side effects! See more on the medical use of the toxin on Wikipedia: "The appeal of the cone snail's venom for creating pharmaceutical drugs is the precision and speed with which the various components act; many of the compounds target a particular class of receptor, to the exclusion of any other. This means that, in isolation, they can reliably and quickly produce a particular effect on the body's systems without side effects. Ziconotide, a pain reliever 1,000 times as powerful as morphine, was initially isolated from the venom of Conus magus. It was approved by FDA in December 2004; other drugs are in clinical and preclinical trials, such as compounds of the toxin that may be used in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, depression, and epilepsy." See link on our Pinterest Board for 'Seashells & Science' for more info.

More questions? No problem - Just email us!

 

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