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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 SHEL Colour that varies from greens & pinks to purples & blues and even some shells with gold or crimson tonings.

2076 Paua shell earring
Rei Jewellery - The most colourful shell



The colour in the paua shell changes when viewed at different angles. This iridescence, similar to that in Mother of Pearl shell, but far more brilliant, is what makes paua shell so amazing as a gem material for use in jewellery. It is truly one of nature's marvels. Each shell is different in its' colour tonings, 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 iridescent colour found in Opals.


Rei Jewellery - Iridescent colour of Paua shell



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


A Treasured Delicacy


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

" 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


Rei Jewellery - Tangaroa - Paua pendant



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




A Natural Marvel

Rei Jewellery Ltd. uses only the highest quality paua shell. The gem quality 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.

Rei Jewellery - Paua earrings - "Angels Wings"




Rei Jewellery Ltd. utilises only natural paua. We use no colour enhancers, dyes or plastic resin coatings, like some manufacturers 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 is an amazing gem shell  material, and doesn't deserve the reputation by association with the cheap blue resin coated paua jewellery that has flooded the market. Natural paua shell is a unique Taonga that we can be proud of.

Rei Jewellery - Paua Fern brooch



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.



Rei Jewellery - "Wave Frond" - Paua pendant

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 are the "Black Eagle" 1859,

Mother was a Robson of Clan Gunn. My Mother is a Graham of Clan Graham. Her Mother was a Father'sand the "Helenslee" 1864. The Fransham part is English.  It traces back to a Norman knight who came to England in 1066.  My 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 progress, which you see represented in all these designs.


Ray Fransham of Rei Jewellery
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