A restaurant delicacy and a stunning piece of jewelry? Does such a thing even exist?
It sure does, and it’s not what you would consider a house-hold staple: abalone.
In short, abalone is a sea snail — specifically, a gastropod mollusk. It’s found in the cold waters of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, and North America’s west coast (California is a prime location). This type of sea snail has a flattened appearance with an ear-shaped shell. It’s known for its appetizing flavor (for meals) and unique, colorful shell interior (for jewelry).
If you’re unfamiliar with abalone, you’re not alone. Here’s a look at what it is and what it’s used for:
What Exactly Is Abalone?
As previously mentioned, abalone is a gastropod mollusk — but what does that mean? Gastropod literally means “stomach foot.” It moves around on a large, muscular foot that allows them to cling to surfaces (like rocks). The shell is attached to its body and has tentacles used for collecting algae to eat.
In California, the 1950s and 1960s proved to be detrimental years for abalone since overfishing nearly rendered them extinct. In 2001, white abalone received federal protection as an endangered species.
Since then, a ban on abalone fishing has been put in place, and farmed abalone has become a more available (and ethical) means of acquisition.
A Culinary Delicacy
Abalone is known for its delectable taste. Its meat provides a savory treat for your tastebuds and can be cooked in a number of ways. Whether they are eaten raw, cooked, or grilled, their flavor is sweet, buttery, and salty, thanks to the saltwater in which it lives.
Abalone is considered a healthy meal option, and consumption comes with its benefits. The shellfish is rich in protein, boosts the immune system, is linked to a decreased risk of cancer, and helps maintain healthy bones.
While your body may thank you for abalone’s taste and nutritional benefits, your wallet probably won’t. Since it is so rare, it typically comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
From the outside, it’s hard to believe anything attractive is created using abalone. The interior of its shell, however, provides a multi-colored, porcelain-like coating perfect for abalone jewelry.
Also known as mother of pearl, a mollusk’s shell lining forms an iridescent substance with a swirl-like pattern of colors (blue and green being the most common). The shells are used to make a variety of jewelry, including rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.
Since no two abalone shells are alike, each piece of abalone jewelry offers a unique (and beautiful) addition to your collection.
Abalone: The Majestic Mollusk
Whether you’re indulging in pan-seared abalone or showing off an eye-catching abalone shell necklace, the elusive mollusk has become a desirable (and often pricey) commodity. The rare shellfish may not be known to many, but its presence in the culinary and fashion worlds is truly memorable.
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