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MFA# 1999.520


The large, shallow shell from an abalone mollusk, genus Haliotis, is a source of mother-of-pearl and blister pearls. Abalone is composed primarily of overlapping crystals of Aragonite (Calcium carbonate) bound together with Chitin. Its iridescent inner surface has been used for ornamentation, inlays, and costume jewelry.

Californian red abalone shell

Synonyms and Related Terms

ear shell; ear-shell; ormeau (Fr.); oreille de mer (Fr.); ormier (Fr.); paua (Maori, New Zealand); abulón (Esp.); perlemoen (South Africa); Seeohr (Deut.); Haliotis (Deut.);

Resources and Citations

  • A.Lucas, J.R.Harris, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries, Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., London, 4th edition, 1962
  • A. MacGregor, Bone, Antler, Ivory, and Horn, Croom Helm, London, 1985
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998

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