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What is PAUA ?




2076 Paua shell earring

NZ's natural gem 

The jewel from the sea

Paua is a species of abalone (Haliotis Iris), with a very special shell. It is only found in the seas around New Zealand. This marine snails eats seaweed and lives clinging to the rocks at depths of 1-10 metres, normally found around most of the NZ rocky shoreline, but it grows biggest and  best in the cold waters around Stewart Is. and Southland, which is where Rei Jewellery Ltd. gets its paua shell. Paua shell is the most colourful of all the abalone shells. Most other abalone are pale

in comparison.



There is no other shell in the World that has colour like PAUA SHELL Colour that varies from greens & pinks to purples & blues and even some shells with with with gold or

crimson tonings.

2076 Paua shell earring
2076 Paua shell earring



The colour in the paua shell changes when viewed at a different angle. This irridescence, similar to that in Mother of Pearl shell, but far more billiant, is what makes paua shell so amazing as a gem material for use in jewellery. It is truely one of nature's marvels. Each shell is different in its' colour tonnings, and in the patterns within the shell. The black patterns in the shell come from layers of protein that are laid down between the layers of calcium crystals that make up the shell. The brilliant colours are from light being refracted within the crystal layers. The same effect that produces the irridescent colour found in Opals.




The paua fishery is properly managed in a sustainable way. There is a quota management system and stricly enforced regulations controlling the size of paua taken. The paua drivers can only free-dive to pry paua off the rocks. The use of airtanks is prohibited. So although paua stock have been depleted, the sustainability of this natural resurce appears ensured. The shell is a byproduct of cating paua for the meat. By purchasing a piece of paua shell jewellery you are increasing the value of this resurce and helping ensure that it continues to be managed in a sustainable way. 




Paua meat is a traditional delicay for Maori. Essential for a good wedding feast or celebration. Although it is harder to find that it used to be, most New Zealanders would rate paua up there with oysters as their preferred shellfish. These days most of paua meat is exported to Asia, where abalone has always been regarded as one of supreme delicacies and highly prized favourite of the Chinese. 

2076 Paua shell earring
2076 Paua shell earring
" Tangaroa "

The Sea that surrounds us.

The all Powerful sea.

Tangaroa is the Maori name

for the God of The Sea. Part of

the soul of every New Zealander,

the closed circle of this piece

symbolises the all

encompassing nature of the Sea

in this Island Nation.


Design by Ray Fransham




Paua shell was traditionally used by Maori to illuminate the eyes of their carving and artwork. The reddish coloured shells were most prized for depicting the flashing red eyes of the warrior. The use of paua shell in allmanner of jewellery and sculpture has become a distinctive feature of New Zealand artwork.





Rei Jewellery Ltd. uses only the highest quality paua shell. The gemquality shell only comes from the oldest paua with the thickest shells. We select the best colour shells and carve and work them with silver into jewellery that shows paua shell for the beautiful material that it is.

2076 Paua shell earring




Rei Jewellery Ltd. utilizes only natural paua. We use no colour enhancers, dyes or plastic resin coatings, like some manufactures who use thin young paua shells. The amazing colour of the paua shell in Rei Jewellery is totally natural. We just polish the shell to its' maximum lustre to let you see the true play of colour within the shell.

Natural paua shell is an amazing gem material, and doesn't deserve the reputation by association with the cheap blue resin coated paua jewellery that had flooded the market. Natural paua shell is a unique Taonga that we can be proud of.

2076 Paua shell earring



Rei Jewellery aims to create "New Zealand" jewellery. Drawing our design inspiration from comtemporary and traditional motifs, we aim to exemplify the amalgam of themes that makes up New Zealand.



2076 Paua shell earring

What is NZ Design?

This is a question I've been asking myself since I started working with paua shell. It goes along with the question "What is NZ Culture?", which I've been asking myself for even longer.


I'm a fifth generation New Zealander. My waka arethe "Black Eagle" 1859,

and the "Helenslee" 1864. The Fransham part is English. It traces back to a Norman knight who came to England in 1066. My Fahers Mother was a Robson of Clan Gunn. My Mother is a Graham of Clan Graham. Her Mother was a Leathem. Both sides of my Mothers family were on the "Helenslee" in 1864. The Settlers on this boat all settled around Pokeno and on the Bombay hills.


I'm a Pakeha. A New Zealander. 


So the short answer is, that if I designed it, then it must be New Zealand Design. The longer answer is a work in progess, which you see represented in all these designs.


2076 Paua shell earring
2076 Paua shell earring
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