Lettered Olive: SC State Shell

The lettered olive has always been my most favorite seashell. On Summer trips down to Dog Island & St. George, I always left the islands triumphant if I had an olive shell in my stash. They weren't as abundant as the Atlantic cockles and scallops that covered the beach- so the relative rarity of them made them a downright treasure to a child. They also develop such a pretty polish- and its no secret that I'm a sucker for all that sparkles.



When I left Florida to move to Savannah, GA for college, I took a lettered olive with me to keep in my pocket. A lot of gemologists have a pocket rock- a special stone that they keep in their pocket for luck. But I had a lucky pocket shell! Years later, when I moved to Charleston, I turned the olive shell into a pendant so that I could wear it all the time (and so I wouldn't risk running the shell through the washing machine in my jeans one more time!).


I recently found out that the lettered olive is the state shell of South Carolina! So I decided I'd share a little bit of information about this special shell on the blog today.

To start- the "lettered olive" actually refers to the sea snail that inhabits the shell! The species inhabits the US coast from North Carolina down through Florida. But it has also been found in Mexico and Brazil. The olive snail is a carnivorous species that feeds on bivalves and the decaying parts of other sea animals. The shell is a sand burrower, and is apparently a very fast one! 

Their shell tends to be a creamy or grey color with a reddish zigzag pattern. The pattern can often resemble the alphabet or lettering, which is how the lettered olive got its name. Dr. Edmond Ravenel was the dean of the Medical College at College of South Carolina. After retiring from medicine, he became a passionate naturalist and conchologist. The lettered olive species was identified and named by Dr. Ravenel. Then in 1984, the shell was named the official state shell of South Carolina.

The shell is one of the more special coastal finds that I use in Sea+Stone jewelry, but I'm far from being the first to turn this attractive shell into a piece of adornment. The Native Americans actually turned the lettered olive shells into necklaces as well!

This past weekend, I was able to celebrate Father's Day with my dad on the Florida Gulf Coast and I managed to collect some beautiful olive shells while there! Can't wait to turn them into Sea+Stone Jewelry.

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