Some Of Our Frequently Asked Questions


You are not the first person to have questions about what sunrise shells are, and it would be natural for someone to have questions about a company. We're gradually putting together a list. If you have a question that you'd like us to answer, just email us at

What are sunrise shells?

Sunrise shells are shells from a type of small scallop native to the Hawaiian Islands. The scallop lives in very deep waters (approximately 300–600 ft.) surrounding the islands. When the scallops die, the shells are discarded. Over time, storm currents mix the shells with sand and bring them closer to shore. This is how the shells are eventually found on the beach. If you go looking for a shell, you'll have the best chance of finding one after a big storm, when storm currents have brought a lot of sand up onto the shore from deeper waters.

Sunrise shells were traditionally very sacred to the ancient Hawaiian people. They are extremely rare and, for those lucky enough to come across one on the beach, they are typically found at sunrise. Hence, the name "sunrise shell".

The scientific name of the sunrise shell species is decatopecten noduliferum and they are also commonly referred to by the name Langford's pecten.

Are the colors of sunrise shells natural?

Yes. The colors of sunrise shells are naturally created by the mystical elements of life.

What factors determine the colors of sunrise shells?

From our personal experience, while yellow and orange sunrise shells can be found throughout the Hawaiian islands, the more rare color variations seem to be characteristic of each island and even what side of an island they are found on. For example, on the North Shore of Oahu, where we live, green sunrise shells are more likely to be found than on other parts of Oahu. Likewise, there is a better chance of finding a red sunrise shell on the west side.

Traditionally, over many years, sunrise shell collectors would try to put together a collection of a several different colors. In our personal collections, we have a few of each color: red, yellow, green, etc. Green shells are a local favorite on the North Shore of Oahu because they are extremely rare elsewhere and they're characteristic of the place where we live.

We put a lot of our best shells on the website, so while red shells are typically very rare, you'll find a large part of our online collection skewed toward shells of this kind.

How does the Sunrise Shells Hawaii ohana find sunrise shells?

We enjoy walking the beaches, snorkeling the shallow waters and risking our lives scuba diving in the deep ocean. We do not take any living shell specimen from the ocean. We believe that taking living shells from the ocean is very negative energy and disrespectful to the Hawaiian Islands and to the world. Sunrise shells are very special and the only way our kids and grandkids will be able to enjoy finding them is if we lead by the example of not taking living shells.

What type of metal do you use in your jewelry?

Sterling silver or 14k gold filled wire. We use 14k+ or fine silver on custom orders.

Why don't you use 18k or 24k gold in your jewelry?

We try to balance elegance and practicality. While we appreciate the finest materials, we also design for active lifestyles. 14k gold seems to balance this well. Appearance-wise, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between 14k gold and 18k gold filled wire, but 14k gold tarnishes less, holds up better, and shows fewer marks after use. Basically, it's more durable. Nevertheless, if you would like your sunrise shell piece made with 18k gold, we often do custom orders of this kind. Just send us an email to let us know what you'd like and we'll make you something that you'll love!

How are sunrise shells priced?

Sunrise shell prices are based on quality and rarity.

Quality can be determined by several factors, such as: overall condition, defects (e.g., cracks, chips or holes), vibrancy of color, durability and thickness, tiger stripes on the sides, condition of "wings", and unique characteristics (e.g., number of fingers, number of humps). Symmetry is another consideration when assessing a sunrise shell.

Rarity is often assessed from the color of the shell. The more common sunrise shell colors are yellow and orange. Pink, red and blue are more rare. Grey, white and black are very rare colors.

If sunrise shells are so rare, how do you have so many of them?

We come from a shell collecting family and from an early age we began to create an impressive collection of sunrise shells. We also have lived close to the ocean all our lives, fishing for our food and knowing the reefs and ocean topography in the area where we live.

Starting in about 2003, a couple of articles came out in the newspaper about sunrise shells, and more people started to seek them out. Because of their rarity and value, we began selling limited numbers of shells and searching for shells in the near shore waters of about 0–50 ft. We also began mapping out areas in these near shore waters where shells were more commonly found, and what kinds of shells were typically found there. As time went on, we began developing a trail toward places in the ocean where the shells come from—eventually diving in 100–140 ft. water with the use of a jet ski and SCUBA equipment. Today, the shells you find on our website are part of our lifelong collection and also ones that we have found while risking our lives diving in the deep waters offshore near our home.

Do you collect live shells?

We have a strict policy of not taking any living shell animals from the ocean. The only reason we are able to find these shells today is because those before us had respect for and cared for the ocean, and we hope to pass this blessing on to the generations that come after us. Every shell we sell has been hand selected, either while diving, snorkeling, or walking the beach.

Sunrise shells have often been referred to as gems from Hawaii. However, in a time when so many precious gems arrive to the market from dubious origins, sunrise shells from Sunrise Shells Hawaii are ethically obtained and ecologically sustainable. Every one is a symbol of peace, respect, life, and the power of the ocean.

What is the difference between a "sunrise shell" and a "moonrise shell"?

The two names are simply given to characterize the brighter and darker varieties of sunrise shells. While, technically, all are sunrise shells, people typically refer to the bright yellow and orange shells as "sunrise shells" and the darker green, blue, purple and grey shells as "moonrise" shells.

Is there typically a difference between the top shell and bottom shell on the scallops that produce sunrise shell?

Yes. Top shells tend to be more red and bumpy, while bottom shells tend to be more yellow and smooth.

Do sunrise shells have any special energy?

Sunrise shells have a very special energy because they come from the ocean paradise surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. The shells represent hope, strength and protection. They are a symbol of carrying the aloha spirit and of sharing it with others. It is a blessing to own and wear a sunrise shell. These gifts of the ocean have a deep aloha that makes you smile and become more positive, which radiates into the lives of those around you. Sunrise shells are a symbol of healing, peace, happiness and joy.

IS there a local retail store that I can buy at?

We set up locally at many craft events on Oahu and we also make appearances at some of the biggest shows every year. Check out Public Events page to see our calendar and get more details about where you can link up with us to view our sunrise shell collection in person.

Help us add to this list. Email your question to Aloha!