‘She sells seashells by the seashore …’, is probably one of the best-known tongue twisters. These natural whorled and ridged sculptures, no longer inhabited by the marine creatures who created them are a popular topic.

I love beach foraging, but when browsing in shops at Looe recently, I admired many shells that were for sale but resisted buying. Areas of our garden are adorned with a mixture of pebbles, driftwood, and shells, and with thoughts of us changing address, I decided, not to add to the assortment.

In the hallway, a shelf of special ones from across Europe is the cause of curiosity from visitors, especially our grandson. It seems to be a family fascination, as my mother and father gave me the main collection when moving into a retirement complex. Some are engraved and illustrate how cameos are fashioned out of small pieces of shell that are etched and mounted in jewellery. It was in Sorrento, Italy, where I watched a craftsman working on the teeny art to be set into rings, pendants, and brooches.

Scallop shells are inexpensive and attractive. Presenting seafood in them always looks refreshing and exciting. Being ovenproof they’re perfect for a starter dish of Crab au Gratin, and it seems so much tastier when baked inside them.

I’m not keen on oysters but many people adore them. For those who are craft-minded, the empty shell can be used. I’ve seen them filled with wax for candles, mirror edges decorated with them, but most of all, I think the seaside wreaths for hanging on doors are gorgeous.

One of my most treasured shells is unpacked every Christmas and then lovingly dangled from a tree branch in a prominent position. Quite a few ornaments have been brought on our travels, and the glittery Sand Dollar, with its religious stories and symbol of peace, came from Florida.

In other countries, shells have been used as currency in the past. These days, they’re precious, not in monetary value, but rich in beauty. Uniquely patterned, shaped, and an inheritance from nature.

Until next time.
Sue. X