Shell Glitter: how we make our own natural glitter from mussel shells & other crushed substances

a photograph shows words cut out from magazines and pasted on paper to create a poem; glitter shards are visible all over the words against a light purple and white background.

Shell Glitter

How we make our own natural glitter from mussel shells & other crushed substances

Cole is knelt down on a shoreline full of smooth stones and the ocean visible behind him. He is bending over the stones and reaching out to touch them with one hand while looking up at the camera and smiling.

“…what we can find below the strandline…”

One of the best discoveries Cole and I have made since moving to the beach last year has to be our natural glitter-making process. We love using ocean and beach found objects and materials in our creative ventures whenever possible these days. Some of our other favorites are wishing stones, moon snails, surf clams, and of course the ever-elusive sea glass. 

a view of smooth sand and ocean surf at low tide, with sunsetting in sky in shades of orange and blue


Our first step is to collect plenty of the shells or rocks that we want to use in our batch of glitter. Different materials will result in different consistencies and reflect light in different ways. The shimmery inside layers of mussel shells work particularly well for this project. Another stand-out: these soft glittery charcoal stones, which crush into gorgeous geometric oil-slick shards.

   As with all of our beachcombing, we limit ourselves to what we can find below the strandline. Sourcing responsibly is important to us, and shells found above this area play an important role in dune preservation and the health of surrounding ecosystems. 

wash, scrub & soak

Wash and scrub the shells to remove any dirt or stains from their surfaces. Soak in a bleach solution overnight or for several hours to achieve maximum cleanliness and shine.

“the perfect substance for creating holographic fragments, translucent windowpanes, and iridescent dust”


Once clean, we sort according to color as well as inner vs. outer portions of shell. Some mussel shells are shades of black and blue, while others have a range of purple hues. These colorful outer sections provide endless mosaic potential. 

Mussel shell insides, and subsequent inner layers, are a shimmery white that we think is ideal for natural glitter, and the perfect substance for creating holographic fragments, translucent windowpanes, and iridescent dust. This material is very thin, almost papery, and will break and crumble easily. It somewhat resembles mica glitter in quality and consistency, although there is a particular purple shimmer present in mussel glitter that is absent (or perhaps presents as more of a clear rainbow-prism tone) in mica glitter. 

crush & grind 

Crush the shells into manageable chunks to aid in sorting and prepare for making glitter. Use a scratch-resistant tool and a non-porous surface for this step. We have been known to use tough nonporous rocks for these materials too, in our apparent lack of a mortar and pestle or some similar situation! We each found a long skinny pencil-esque rock for grinding, and a thick flat rock for using as a surface.

Grind shell fragments into flakes or a powder, depending on desired result. Both consistencies are wonderful for different uses and visual effects! Experiment with both course and fine grinds in order to achieve final product. Below are some examples of artwork including both the fine glitter and the larger flakes or shimmer scales. The larger size can be broken and shaped in different ways in order to fit what you are working on. They can also be layered in different thicknesses, depending on how many layers of shell are present. Thickness will impact how transparent or opaque the flakes appear. 


Using this natural glitter has been excellent for so many projects and outshines regular synthetic glitter nine times out of ten. Of course, there are still times when synthetic glitter is essential, for example if needing a specific color. To arrange some of the larger fragments, we use tweezers or small tongs; this helps achieve maximum precision in the placement, angle, and therefore relationship to light refraction of each piece. 

Cole and I are constantly seeking new substances that might lend themselves well to creating homemade glitter. If you have expertise, suggestions, or are curious to watch us try something out...let us know! Natural glitter exists in so many places, spaces and forms; we want to crush them all. 


We store ours in these little glass jars from the Dollar Tree (we prefer the ones with metal screw-top lids, but the ones with corks work too!) . Make sure to label your containers and be aware of any allergies or sensitivities before using this natural glitter for a project. Each batch tends to turn out a little differently, and I have found that making small batches works best so far. The small jar sizes have been useful for that reason. Here are some of the ones just banging around my desk earlier today. As you can tell, we need to make a new batch of mussel shell glitter soon! A possible future post for sure...

Until then, enjoy this guide on how we make our own natural glitter! We'd love to hear from you in the comments below ❤