I am always asked where do I find sunrise shells? That question is asked more often than not from tourist who have seen some locally handmade jewelry while visiting the islands and want to find sunrise shells for their selves. Well if you are someone who is wondering where to find them (which you probably are since you are on here) then this will help you out a lot.
Know where to look– Sounds simple enough right but that could not be further from the truth. Sunrise shells are found primarily in deep waters (60 to 200 ft) around the Hawaiian Islands, they get brought in from the depths during mostly winter storms and very large swells that the North and West facing shores of the islands are impacted by.
The storms/ swells stir up sand that carries these shells towards inland waters and deposits these shells close to the beaches. I mostly find all mine in deep waters around 100ft using scuba gear of the North shore of Oahu but I do not recommend this practice as it can be VERY dangerous. When I dive at these depths my bottom time is only around 6 minutes but I can find many in those few minutes, again I DO NOT recommend this practice.
Another common and very SAFE way is to walk the beach, if you are going this approach walk in the mornings because after all that is where they get their name. You ll need to know the depths of the water off the beaches you are looking. I like to walk beaches that have a deep trench not to far off the beach, a good source for research is a maritime chart of the island you are on. If, the charts you look at have soundings in FATHOMS you must convert to feet by Fathoms x 6 = feet; so 40 fathoms equal 240ft.
I like to walk early morning ( 1st light) right after a huge swell, be EXTREMLY careful not to get to close to the waters edge because if it grabs you that could be all she wrote. If the sand is very smooth that means that the water level will come up to that spot again very soon. It’s a good idea to take rake to fluff up the sand a little because a lot of times the shells are lightly covered by the sand.
Now, if you don’t find any the first couple times you look don’t get discourage because these are REALLY rare, I was told that they are the Hawaiian diamonds; makes sense because they’re tough to find but that is what make them so special tho. If you ever find a live one NEVER keep it!!!
What to look for– Sunrise shells come in different colors, the most common is the Orange/ yellow
but there are many colors. The colors will often reflect what side of the island they are found ( not sure why), the ones I find here on the North Shore of Oahu have green in them. Other colors include red, grey, white, blue, pink, etc and most will have 8 ridges on the shell. I look for the ridges when I’m trying to find sunrises, for me its easier because shapes are easier to identify for me.
The darker ones are often referred to as “MOONRISE” shells.
The Hawaiian sunrise shell is a small scallop the Latin name is Decatopecten Noduliferum
aka Langford’s Pecten
If I find one is it valuable?– They can be and often times are but it all depends on the quality of the shell
Does it have chips?
Does it have holes (pukas)?
what color is it?
What size is it?
obviously a flawless/ rare color is gonna to be the most valuable. I have seen a single shell go for well over $100.00 (just the shell alone) , I have also seen one go for $10.00, so it all depends on the 4 factors above.
I hope this info has helped you and I wish you the best of luck finding sunrise shells,
If you have any questions please comment below
or if you find one please send me a pic in the comment box.