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  It only takes one happy find on the beach in childhood to get you hooked! Seashells are irresistible, inspiring and fascinating natural objects and collectibles. There is also a scientific side to collecting Seashells, which ties in with Marine Biology studies... and that is where it gets really interesting!  

What are Specimen Seashells? 

Seashells are Natural History objects and collectibles (same as i.e. fossils or minerals). If you look at early archaeological digs and the finds in those, people seem to have always enjoyed collecting shells! But aside from using or displaying shells as ornaments, you can also decide to collect for scientific value.

Discover the study of Specimen Seashells, or Conchology. This is a branch of Malacology (the study of molluscs), which is in turn within Invertebrates research / Marine Biology.

All Specimen Seashells require data (a label with recorded origin information). They are usually graded (for condition) and carefully packaged individually to ensure the data stays with each specimen (see info on scientific data labels below). There are International exhibitions and trade shows around the world every year for Specimen Seashells.

Some amateur collectors know their favourite group of shells very well and you may even find them among the acknowledged world expert malacologists in their chosen field of study.



Seashell Books: 

There are lovely coffee table books, showing shells in all their beauty and variety. But most seashells books are actually intended as reference guides. If you have a large collection of shells, you'll naturally want to figure out what they are called and where they came from - it's a fascinating subject.



Specimen Shells are often listed online only by their scientific (Latin) species name (i. e. on our pricelists). How do you know what the shell looks like? The internet is useful: You can google a latin species name for images to find out what a shell looks like - but if you need more than a few images, it gets time-consuming and you'll do a lot of typing!

You will also want to compare several images of closely related species side by side, or to get a quick overview of a whole seashell family or range of species. The right seashell book does that really well..

A good reference book will present you with a broad range of options to find IDs quickly or compare your shell against images of closely matching options to see where exactly it might fit in the range of existing species, subspecies or colour forms. In short - the right Seashell Book will save you a lot of time.


Most collectors will use a few well-chosen books constantly. Depending on what they collect (i.e. Cowries), they will usually have at least one General Shell Book (i.e. the Encyclopedia Of Gastropods) to see what else lives in a articular location - and a book or two just on Cowries / Cypraeidae to help identify their shells and the range of subspecies and varieties, so they can track those they are still missing online. Once you can find the right scientific name in the book, it's very easy to find out more about any species (or its forms and varieties) on the internet. To have both internet and good books available is ideal.



Scientific Seashell Data (Labels): 

NAME: A scientific name typically includes: Genus and species name, the Author (person who named and described it) and the publication year. Additional information usually includes the local variant / form name or subspecies designation.

LOCALITY: Country or region of origin and any known details on habitat and depth. Locality info typically depends on the source: For example, we frequently scuba-dive remote areas and can often supply shells we have found with very detailed data, incl. GPS info (i.e. to 100m radius). We also obtain shells from old collections (where shells may have less info). Trawled shells may carry even less data, depending on which boat they came from and how accurately fishing logs were kept.

SIZE: Specimen size in millimetres, which always represents the largest measurable distance between the two outermost points of a specimen (except spiny Bivalves and Spondylidae, where the shell body is measured without spines).

DESCRIPTION: Mentions typical features, condition, shape, colour, pattern, presentation and/or major differences to other forms of the same species.

OPERC / PERIO: Some species have doors (Nerites, etc.), so we may include info on presence / absence of the operculum (shell door) or periostracum (soft surface coating).

REFS / IMAGES: References to previously published information or images: Data labels may include refs to a particular publication (i.e. Image in a shell book).



What is Grading?

GRADING: Notes the condition of a specimen shell by a commonly accepted set of Intl. GRADING terms.

SPECIMEN SEASHELL GRADING (Shells are viewed under good lighting with the naked eye)


Shells are without any discernible blemish or flaw. The specimen will be fully adult and of typical size for species.


Shells that have a very minor flaw or blemish which is hard to perceive, shows up only under close scrutiny and in no way detracts from the look of the shell.


Shells have a noticeable flaw or blemish which does not detract from the look of the specimen.


Shells have more than one noticeable flaw, growth line or blemish consistent with the species, but the overall presentation is very good. These shells are generally excellent value and suitable for aesthetically pleasing collections, being considerably less expensive than GEM specimens.


Shells with small chips, noticeable growth lines, nacre lifts, blemishes or other obvious flaws, where the overall appearance and presentation of the shell is obviously not perfect. NOTE: Several large sized or rare species are only available in F+ condition or less.


Shells with major chips, growth lines, nacre lifts, blemishes or other obvious flaws. Very fresh dead collected but otherwise good specimens are also often classed as F/F+. 
NOTE: Some shell species are only available in F/F+ condition or less.


Shells that are either badly damaged, obviously juvenile or dead, but suitable as a representative of the species or for study purposes. 
NOTE: Some shell species are only available in F or dead condition.

No Grading system can possibly do justice to every specimen and most Specimen Shells will require further description. Since seashells are difficult to photograph well (image may not clearly show flaws or can be tampered with), the above Intl. Grading terms are widely accepted for seashell descriptions.


Our Money-Back-Guarantee:

Grading and Photographing seashells well is not easy. As Specimen Seashells are by definition highly individual objects, there is still no better way to evaluate them than holding a shell in your hand and looking at it. So we are offering you a ‘Money Back Guarantee' for all our Specimen Seashell items, which means that you can return any of them for a refund (or online shop credit if you prefer this) to the full value of the item(s) returned, excluding shipping cost.

In short, if you do not like the shells we have selected for any reason, you can send them back for a full refund or exchange if you wish.


Not what you are looking for?

See also non-graded Seashells and Starfish for Decoration.