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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS / FAQ

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

Please click on any of the Quick Links below for answers!

·       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! All good queries will be added 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 the same. 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? All seashells resonate to ambient noise (see WIKIPEDIA). Some shapes just resonate better than others (for example ear or violin shapes amplify sound waves really well). Some Helmet Shells (Cassidae) naturally have internal structure similar to ears, so they work better than other shells. Size is also important. Theoretically, the bigger the shell and the more ambient noise there is, the better the effect works. But generally you would look for a shell that is easy to hold to your ear. Try a Red Helmet Shell (Cassis rufa), which is very pretty, colourful, just about the right size to handle comfortably - and which works well for resonance (picks up the faintest ambient noise!). When ordering, just make sure to 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 (incl. Chank Shells) 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. Would a different shape work for you? If yes, we can offer you several other giant natural XL or XXL sized Bailer, Syrinx or Giant White Murex Shells.. 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! Our stock is constantly changing and expanding, but you can print out our detailed online listings (in over 7000 different categories!) anytime. We invite you to browse and order from us online!

The DECOSHELLS listings (decorative / craft / bulk shells and starfish, etc.) include detailed descriptions & images for each item.
The Specimen Shell Pricelists are formatted for easy printout 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 printing problems, please email us!


Can you send me photos of individual Shells?

We are not set up for quick individual digital imaging! While we supply many other dealers (who offer individual images per shell), you can also order from us directly. We have a different setup:

We think 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 specimen 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.

You can 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 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 by all means please email us!

In the meantime please take care to keep data labels with each item to preserve value.

If you require a professional valuation of your collection (i.e. for insurance), please email us for options.


Do you sell Paper Nautilus?

Yes, we offer several species of Paper Nautilus (aka Argonauta) in our Specimen Seashells section online - see 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 usually have each species available in various sizes. All pricing includes substantial, careful packaging required for very fragile items to travel safely and arrive intact at your door (incl. double-boxing) - no additional handling charge.


How to clean Shells for Aquarium / Cooking use?

Our shells are stored in a large warehouse and to ensure they are dust-free, we advise that you should give them an initial clean when you receive them.
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.

For a quick clean, just scrub seashells with a soft brush, some warm water and soap, then rinse and dry.

For a deep-clean / sterilisation, place your shells in a large pot of cold clean water and put this to 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 micro-structure of any residual animal tissue or possible traces of commercial cleaning agents (i. e. chlorine, alcohol) and dust particles, etc. - in one go.


How to cook with Seashells?

Other than using shell meat for seafood, you can also creatively use empty clean seashells (incl. Scallops, Abalone, etc.) in food presentation to great effect.
Scallops are often used for baking or gratins (i.e. oven / grill), or they lend themselves beautifully for small side dishes (i.e. sauces) for seafood platters, various finger foods, tapas, etc.

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.
Talk to us about options for food presentation, such as Deep Dish Scallop / White Scallop (very similar to traditional Coquilles St. Jacques). Find out more in our Decoshells section! When ordering, please advise if you would like to use the shells for cooking! We'll only select robust shells and can trim 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. any saw / file / sandpaper that is suitable for use with metals will also cut or sand shells.
Obviously always wear adequate protection when using power tools. Wet the area to keep dust to a minimum while you work, so choosing wet&dry (linen-backed) sandpaper to use with shells (i.e. to smooth edges) is a good idea.


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 simply poke a small hole (i.e. for beadwork or jewellery).
Larger shells may need to be drilled - and it's quite easy with the right tools. Drilling shells yourself means you can place the hole exactly where you want it. A small hand-held power drill (i.e. for engraving, etc.) works best. Un-branded ones 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 drills required).

TIPS: Don't overheat the area. Drilling at low speed / pressure works best. Moisten the drill area to reduce dust (i.e. have shallow dish of water nearby) while you work and always wear adequate protection when using power tools.


How to paint Starfish?
Natural starfish are usually pale on the bottom and a bit darker on top. If you need a particular colour for your starfish (i.e. to match a colour theme), just spray-paint them any colour you like. A single can of paint will cover hundreds (or even thousands) 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.

TIPS: Flat (non-gloss) spray enamel paint works best - available from any hardware store. Always wear protection / old clothing when using spray paint and do a trial run first! Spread newspaper in a wind-protected spot outside. Spread starfish on a few sheets, upside down initially. Paint your items very lightly, while moving the can at approx. 30 cm distance side-to-side. Repeat to achieve the right shade, keeping all paint layers very thin, as that will look completely natural and will dry in a few seconds. Turn starfish over and repeat the process for the top & sides in more 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 further smooth and then polish your shell surface (all tools widely available at hardware stores). Always wear protection when using power tools and rest the material frequently to keep it from overheating. However this is a messy process and if you have no prior experience, consider asking for help at your local jeweller's workshop instead. Jewellers can advise or even polish your shells, as this falls in their traditional skill set (i.e. polishing mother-of-pearl for jewellery).


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 (we know most serious collectors around Australia), so just send us an email for advice and options!


How to store a shell collection?

Seashells consist of ~ 98% of calcium carbonate, which is vulnerable to acid / acidic environments, so we recommend metal cabinets (not timber) for long term storage. Museums around the world use metal storage for Natural History collections to avoid many potential problems associated with other materials. Shiny shells (i.e. Cowries) with very thin nacre layers are especially vulnerable to acidic environments, but other seashells will also suffer and degrade if exposed to acidity (i.e. in timber cabinets). A controlled (low) humidity helps to lower the risk, 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: Do not use timber 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 PU foam, which degrades 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 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..


Other queries? Please email us!

 

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