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Simple Shell Craft

Updated on January 19, 2009

Sea Shell Craft

If you are a sea shell collector or fond of sea shells , here are some tips to make creative use of it . Even if you don’t have , no worries . you can get variety of sea shells from a local store or any beach shops. You can use these shells to decorate your mirror, photo frame , bags , jug etc . It becomes a beautiful collection which you can showcase.

About Sea Shells

Seashells belong to the kingdom of Mollusca. Most Mollusca are soft fleshy slug like creatures that have hard external skeleton which helps to protect them. Mollusca can be found in both salt and fresh water, as well as on the land.  In the oceans, this structure is known as seashell.

Moon snail
Moon snail

Sea Shell Types

There are different sea shells available in the market . Before starting a sea shell craft you should know these varieties .

  • Cones
  • Helmets and Conchs
  • Murexes, Tritons, Whelks, and Others
  • Worm and Carrier Shells
  • Caecums and Tusks
  • Augers, Horn Shells, and Others
  • Dove Shells, Ceriths, and Others
  • Periwinkles, Wentletraps, and Others
  • Tops and Turbans
  • Moon Snails, Nerites, and Others
  • Trivias and Cowries
  • Margin Shells and Eratos
  • Olives, Bubble Shells, and Others
  • Limpets
  • Keyhole Limpets
  • Slipper and Cup-and-Saucer Shells
  • Abalones
  • Chitons
  • Scallops
  • Cockles, Arks, Angel Wings
  • Clams and Pandoras
  • Mussels, Razor Clams, and Pen Shells
  • Oysters, Jewel Boxes, and Jingle Shells


Natural Sea Shells on shore
Natural Sea Shells on shore
Unclean Auger
Unclean Auger

Cleaning the shell

Interior Cleaning :

The best way to clean the inside of a shell is to put the shell in the freezer for at least 1-2 days. Then, take it out and let it unfreeze slowly. Do not put it into hot or boiling water. 

The fastest way to remove the sand inside the shell is to use a strong water jet which forces out the sand or any thin dental instrument or needle . 

To avoid the bad smell which may appear, you can put the shell in various chemical products, depending on the shell family. 

Avoid putting any naturally polished shell like cowries in water, or do not leave it more than few minutes, it may damage the shell. 

you can also put the shell in alcohol if possible. The alcohol action is to dry the shell. 

Exterior Cleaning:

For shells like Muricidae, conidae, Mitridae, Ranellidae and Stombidae which do not burrow or do not have a mantle to protect the shell,Fill a hermetically sealed container with pure bleach (at least 32°-48° C). Soak it for a day. use water to clean and then dry it.

Use a thin instrument like dental strips to clean the outer coarse surface. 

Avoid touching the shells often . Use duster (rag) or brushes with soft bristles to clean it.

Collection of Polished shell
Collection of Polished shell
Polished Clam
Polished Clam
Polished Cone Shell
Polished Cone Shell
Enamel Coated Shell
Enamel Coated Shell
Exterior Paint Coating
Exterior Paint Coating

Shell Polishing

Some shells like cowries, for instance - are naturally shiny and never need polishing.

For small shells or if you have large quantity of shell , you can tumble them in a tumbler setup with a buffing compound in the matrix.

With the river or clam shells you can clean them with soap and water. Then use a dremel to cut them into the shape you need. Use 600 grit waterproof sandpaper to polish the outside and inside of the shell. Polish or sand them underwater and this works very good to bring out the shine. After they are smoothed by the sand paper, take a dremel buffing pad and some jewelers rough and buff it to a very high gloss finish. This brings out more color than you would ever imagine .

Egg dye or liquid food color : Create colours for shells following pkg. directions for mixing dye. Dye about 2/3 of the shells one colour , 1/3 with another colour following dye instructions. Air-dry face down on paper towels or use a blow dryer. Re-dye to darken shade to blend or to blend two colours. Colour may be uneven due to shell structure, but that is part of the look. You can also Tint fabric if you need .

Another method involves muratic acid,The kind of stuff you get to clean you cement floors prior to sealing them. You use rubber gloves and dip the shell in the acid. The acid quickly eats away anything on the surface of the shell. A few seconds for smaller shells would be more than enough. This is how they get abalone so shiny so it should work on other shells as well. Rinse thoroughly with tap water and rub thoroughly with a towel it should be nice and shiny.

For bigger shells like oyster shell or clams ,the simplest way is to use nail polish or glass painting colors or painting sprays to polish it. 

Embedded shell candle
Embedded shell candle

Sea Shell Candles

If you want something more fun and easy to do with small shells,  you can make candles. You can use small shells like Carrier Shells, Horn Shells , Dove Shells or Augers. Buy some cheap pillar candles. Use the tip of your hot glue gun to melt a spot on the candle and press a shell into the wax. You just have to hold it until the wax starts to set. You can do the bottom half of the candle this way and then tie a piece of raffia ribbon or any fancy lace around the center. This makes for a nice shell candle piece to be displayed in the guest area of your house.


Shell Photo Frames
Shell Photo Frames

Sea Shell Photo Frame

For a Shell Photo Frame all you need is hot glue gun, a simple picture frame, and various sea shells. Then you give your own creative touch.

Choose a frame which keeps the shells glued well .Choose the color of the frame in such a way to project the shell decoration .Use bigger shells like clams for decorating the corners . Use smaller shells like Carrier Shells, Horn Shells , Dove Shells or Augers to fill the inner or outer rim of the frame. You can also bead the shells if you want to cover the frame across its length and breadth. Make smaller holes on the shell by using dremel or needle and then glue the bead slowly over the frame. This saves time and if some shells fall out you can glue it again as its now part of the bead. While drilling hole , make sure you are not breaking the shell.

Elegant Shell Mirrors
Elegant Shell Mirrors

Shell Mirror

Similar to shell Photo Frame , you can make a shell mirror too . Choose a mirror with broader frame to showcase your shell work . The frame should glue the shells well . Don’t choose any glossy frame as its difficult to glue the shells over it . also avoid frames with many convolutions or designs as it may mask the shell decoration over it .


Shell Pendants
Shell Pendants

Shell Jewelry

This is a simple way to make a pendant necklace with bean clams and one scallop shell. You can choose different shells depending on the model you need. The scallop is the pendant in this. Some shells on the beach have natural holes worn in the top like the gastropod shells and limpets. This can be easily beaded. For other seashells you have to poke through a needle or use a drill to create the hole in the shell. Use a dremel to make a hole on the scallop. Also you can drill the edges / surface to get a desired shape.

You can crochet the shell to position it in proper place of the necklace or you can also string beads in between the shells. Choose a contrasting plain / nylon string or some thick wire to hold the pendant. Just slide the wire over the holes of the shell. You got a simple , elegant shell necklace. Also you can use non-yellowing clear gloss that keeps the shells shiny and provide some protection and durability for the shell.


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    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 

      3 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Interesting info-thanks!

    • profile image

      Trần Thanh Lâm 

      4 years ago

      wellcome to seashell VietNam


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      nice nice report is done".......tnx

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      this all crafts are very nice, i intrested to do like this crafts, but wher we get shells, thank u

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Visit this blog for an example of a sea shell mirror:

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      looks like this may very well become an oft' visited site, like what i see so far, presented very well and MUCH appreciated...i will browse the entire site and i expect i won't be thanx to all

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the section on shell polishing! I'll have to try that with some of our shells!


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