Heishi originally meant "shell" and came to refer to tiny shell beads. The term now is applied to small disk shaped beads made from stone and mineral materials as well as shells. The smaller sized heishi beads require more labor and are therefore more expensive than the larger sized heishi beads.
Shell beads have long been used for personal adornment and jewelry making, as well as many other kinds of arts and crafts. They are common artifacts found in most archaeological excavations. Even when the culture was not a coastal one, shells were found in fresh water, traded, or sometimes found in prehistoric geological deposits. Because shells can be found in virtually every part of the world. They have been made into beads by every culture advanced enough to use tools.
Mother of pearl is the pearly inside layer of a mollusk shell (such as abalone, oyster, or snails), the same material the mollusk uses to create a pearl. Because shells are organic, they are quite soft and porous. This porosity allows them to accept dye readily, although they are available in many colors without any added treatements.
|common treatments: often dyed|
|special care: Avoid impact and abrasion, do not clean in an ultra-sonic cleaner. (They can be quite heavy, so that should be taken into consideration when selecting them for use.)|