How to Handcraft Your Own Shell Necklace

Beach Season will last for six more weeks in New York (yup, until mid-September, even though the park rangers officially start kicking you off the hot sand in the beginning of that month). Since I work during the week, I try to go to the beach at least one day on the weekend. Thus, Saturday was my last beach day in July and I spent it with the wonderful Elena and her husband, both from Russia. We went to the Far Rockaway stretch as we got up too late to go anywhere close to Long Island or the Jersey shores. I wrote about the beaches over there before and one thing I keep on noticing is the abundance of shells the ocean spits out on particularly this area.

After going for a few swims we strolled along the water and were excited to find shells which already had a hole craved in them. At first we were perplexed and thought someone must have lost her necklace, but there was no way anyone would lose hundreds of shells with holes along the entire stretch of beach. Elena thought it might be a predator taking a bite of them. If anyone has studied biology or knows more about this sort of phenomena, please let me know. It could be fun to speculate.
We went to work and collected a good amount of sea shells: from white over bluish to reddish tinted and mustered ones – they all had nice patterns for what we had in mind.
Because the tides were coming in, we eventually made our way home. My friend knew many things on how to string the shells together and create jewelry from them, and she surely gave me a good amount of ideas.

Therefore, Sunday afternoon was a good time to put these ideas in action. I had plenty of time on my hands (something that is quite rare for a weekend in New York, but as I was suffering from a limping foot I really couldn’t jump into any other action). So I hobbled up onto my rooftop, assembled my tools around me, and went to work.

Here is how I constructed three nice pieces of shell jewelry, sacrificing absolutely nothing (except for my time and some fun in experimenting). The following steps will give you an idea of how to handcraft jewelry made of shells:

What you will need are shells with or without a hole, yarn or thread to string these on, scissors to cut the thread, clear nail polish, and lots of patience and time.

The minimum equipment you will need

First, make sure you wash those shells in clear water once you get home (given the fact you collected them from their original site like I did; otherwise disregard this step). Mine had sand sticking to them so I let them sit in a bowl of water before I spread them out on a towel to dry.

Shells drying on a towel

Second, after finding a spot you are comfortable with in spending the next few hours at, apply clear nail polish onto your shells. This will prevent them from breaking as easily as they do without. I eventually ran out of nail polish and only did half of the shells, so I didn’t give this step as much credit as it deserves.

Applying clear nailpolish onto a shell

Third, choose the order you want the items to be next to each other. I did it in order of color, size, and shape.

An abundance of shells

Fourth, select a long piece of string to attach these shells to. Since I had never done this before I cut something three times the size of a normal-length necklace but I am sure double the amount is more than enough.

Cutting the thread

Fifth, string the thread through the hole and make a knot around the shell or one before and one after the shell. This will help it stay in one place and prevent it from slipping along the thread.

Shells on a string
Tying a knot

Step six is to do this to the rest of the shells. I added some variety in different styles of knots and tying a group of four shells around each other. You just have to come up with your own ideas and I am sure you will find some twists and turns that add an interesting touch to your creation.

A variety of knots you can make

Finally, you attach a clasp on both ends of the string and close the necklace. I didn’t have a clasp or a lock so I decided to just go with the good old tying both ends together. It works for a while, and I am still not too concerned about my necklace slipping off anytime soon.

Shells around my neck

Indeed, I had so much fun and wanted to try out many more combinations; so in the end I was able to proudly present one necklace, one bracelet, and one anklet. Thank you Elena for your inspirational ideas and I hope you were able to come up with your own little creation of a bracelet.

My three shell creations so far

These pieces mean much more to me then the memory of a simple afternoon at the beach. I have taken my love to the ocean and sand to another level and will surely look back in the cold winter months yet to come at how awesome another summer in New York has been!

Now it’s your turn to be creative, folks, and to show me what you got!

Shells on my wrist
Shells around my foot
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