“Great service! 
I have been impressed with the quality of the items I've received (especially the fretboards). You've been very helpful with some unusual builds (the suggestion to order a bass fretboard slotted from both ends for two short-scale necks was brilliant). I was very surprised at how quickly I received an order of custom-length truss rods. You have a very happy customer."

Shell Inlay Material

Hummingbird inlay by Jimmi Wingert.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to United States Fish and Wildlife Service restrictions, we are unable to ship shell outside the U.S.A.

SHELL – Types & Colors

Here are some descriptions of the various types and colors you will find in this section. (Note that not all colors are available in all types and shapes of shell/ “Abalam”):

Pinctada maxima  
Origin: Australia

White MOP is silvery white in color, and is the most common inlay material. This material is relatively homogenous from piece to piece and displays subtle rainbow colors when turned in the light.  This is the best material for engraving and stands out wonderfully in any dark wood. Not available in Abalam® but sold by the ounce and cut into dots, curved strips, and other shapes.

Pinctada maxima
Origin: Indonesia and the Philippines

The same as white MOP, except gold or bronze in color. Perfect with gold hardware or where a suggestion of age or warmth is need.

Pinctada margaritifera    
Origin: Tahiti

Ranges from black, to smoky or silvery gray. This material often displays stunning rainbow-like figuring!

Haliotis fulgens     
Origin: S. California & Baja, Mexico

This is a type of abalone shell that shows more green accents along with the pinks blues and purples. Tends to have more ripple than other shell. Available as Abalam® and in curved and straight strips.

Haliotis fulgens      
Origin: S. California & Baja, Mexico

The "select" part of the green abalone shell with more intense colors and tighter figure. Available as Abalam® and in curved and straight strips.

Haliotis iris    
Origin: New Zealand & neighboring islands

Paua (Pronounced “pow-ah”) abalone is strong in blue and turquoise colors, but also has purples and reds. Very beautiful, with good “figure”. Available in dots,  shell edging and in Abalam®, but not as slab shell.

Haliotis asinina   
Origin: Philippines

A white mother-of-pearl type shell available in Abalam® only. Essentially a Mother of pearl substitute (Mother of Pearl is not available in Abalam®). Great for larger inlays and for large Gibson® style fingerboard trapezoid inlays.


We carry two types of shell inlay material, Solid (or slab) shell and “Abalam” (laminated shell):

  • Solid (slab) Shell This is pure shell material, cut straight from the curved inside surface of the shell and then sanded flat. This has been the traditional material for inlay until the advent of “Abalam”. It is sold by the ounce (slab pieces), in dots, as curved strips and as straight strips, tie block inlays and some special shapes. When you purchase an ounce of flat slab expect to see approximately 7 to 8 pieces in an ounce of 1st grade or regular slab shell and 4 to 6 pieces in an ounce of the large shell. The size and shape of each piece will vary.
  • Abalam” This is a stunning inlay material, made by laminating extremely thin sections of shell in such a way as to render the entire surface of the sheet with beautiful, figured shell patterns — unlike natural shell slab pieces which varies over the surface area and depth of the piece. It is perfectly flat and is actually easier to saw into delicate patterns because of the homogeneous nature of the laminations. This is the ideal material when you need unusually large pieces or for projects where extreme figure is a must. There are also more types of shell available than there is in slab/solid shell. This material is available in sheets at 2 different thicknesses and as curved and straight strips.