The Paua themselves are harvested from the harsh environment of the pure waters along the coastlines of New Zealand – their size and colour are determined by how they have “grown up”. Their diet consists of seaweed and minerals from the sea and the quality of these lends to the better formation of their shells in more vibrant colours.
I have been lucky enough to be involved on a very small scale on the harvesting of some of these large edible sea snails.
It was a crisp cold winter’s day on the Kaikoura coast – the extreme coldness of the sea along this coastline lends itself to a better environment for the Paua but not for me unfortunately – the wind blew down from the snow covered mountains and whipped around us as we clambered into wet suits, donned our masks and snorkels, and waded into the sea.
This was my first experience swimming in the sea let alone diving under the water as I searched for the Paua clinging to the rocky out crops. I gasped as the icy sea hit my face. Thousands of fish swirled around me and I could see other shellfish and wildlife clinging to the rocky bottom. My anxiety soon diminished however when I dived down and seen a large perfectly placed Paua.
It looked so different in its natural environment that it was hard to believe that it would eventually become one of our beautiful pieces of Jewelry.
The outside of the shell was covered in barnacles and weeds – the Paua itself had a large “foot” which was suctioned to the rock. I remembered the instructions I had received from our guide to flick the Paua from underneath with a plastic stick he had given me – but in all my excitement and enthusiasm I reached down and wedged my fingers underneath the rather large shell at the same time – The Paua sensing impending doom clamped down hard with the fingers underneath it! Fortunately with a little effort and leverage with the stick it finally “let go” and I managed to extricate my now throbbing painful fingers. Lesson learnt!
What an experience – magical and inspiring I certainly will be trying that again but maybe next time I will wait for a nice summers day to venture into the water.
With my precious shell then divulged of the thick black meat of the Paua I returned back up the scenic majestic coast line to Blenheim and to the factory where I will be able to clean, grind and polish it to reveal the vibrant colours hidden underneath the thick outer layers. (Below you will see a photo of the two extremes)