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Topic initialed Sep 7 2006 by LTS Forum member blackjack

Hi all,
l know many shell collectors using different things to protect shells from losing their natural colors.
Some of collectors prefer to use baby oil or mineral oil. Perhaps somebody uses something else.
As for me, l had not been using anything, neither baby oil nor mineral oil. l thought all those things really not help shells to keep their colors.
However l've been converse with some collectors and they say that have used baby oil as well as mineral oil for long time.
And they don't see any troubles with shells.

l decided using baby oil for some glossy shells of mine, but still doubt if it's right.
l'd like having your opinion for it.
Does anybody use those things? Do you use it for glossy shells only?


I dont use anything on my shells.....cones have a natural gloss much like cypraea....rarely do get a shell that is dull.....sometimes when I've collected in florida I've collected dead cones that sometimes have a dull finish....but I leave as such since they were dead collected anyways.

If I were to use any kinds of oil....( arent baby oil and mineral oil the same thing basically, anyways? ) I would probably use something perhaps with a bit of silicon in it......i would think baby oil or the such, eventually would dry off and the result would be the shell having a whitish finish again.


I'm not sure there's anything which actually protects shells from losing color, other than keeping them away from direct light. Even then, fading will occur over a long period of time. Ask my 30-year-old Cypraea aurantium

Many collectors use various oils or silicone to bring out colors which have faded for one reason or another. Many rough-surfaced shells look rather dull when dry. I once had a very nice series of self-collected Nucella lamellosa. I used a minimal amount of mineral oil to bring out the colors a bit more. I never liked the false gloss too much oil can produce, so applied the oil with an almost dry brush. After several years, the shells largely reverted to their dry, slightly chalky look, as Lyle points out in his post.

If I had Cypraea treated with silicone, I'd make sure I had a large, well-padded area in my immediate vicinity...they can be slippery enough as it


Hi Lyle and snailer, Thanks for your posts.
There's really interesting for me and think for others too.
l also hope someone else will say his/her opinion this topic.





I don't use anything to "protect" the shells

except storage in the dark and an air conditioned

environment. However, I do use mineral oil to

enhance dead-collected or faded shells.

                                                               Here's the effect:


I have, on occasion, on rough surfaced shells used a mixture of mineral oil and lighter fluid applied with a small brush. Since the lighter fluid quickly evaporates, this makes for a thinner coating which will penetrate into the crevices in the shell's surface but not pool up as much as undiluted mineral oil would. It's next to impossible to wipe out excess oil with a rag or cotton from a snaggy shell, so this is the best solution I've found.


I believe baby oil is just mineral oil with something added for scent.

When I first got into shelling, I read to oil your shells to protect them and bring out the shine. So, I slapped 'em with a coat of vegetable oil.


Thanks for your all posts in this topic.
l think, won't using any oils and etc things for my own shells.
Possible l'll using mineral oil for faded specimens, but not more.
l've been keeping my shells in plastic boxes out of sunlight, and do an air conditioned every six monthes.
Hope that will help to keep my shell collection for many years.

Susan J. Hewitt:

To be honest, it is not the shell itself (beautiful though it may be) but the collecting data that is the most valuable thing scientifically, especially in the case of shells that were self-collected. (Sad to say, but data that come with a shell bought from a dealer is often just not reliable.)

Be sure you use acid-free paper for your data labels. Be sure your data is written in something that will last hundreds of years, such as India ink or pencil, not fountain pen ink or regular ballpoint ink, which fade to almost nothing in a few decades. As for computer printer ink -- I have no idea how long that will last before it fades to nothing. Paul Callomon of the ANSP would know which would be the best kind to use.

Remember that the detailed info about how, when, where, and by whom the shell(s) were collected is far more important than the identification of the shell, which can always be determined later.

Also remember that it is not the rarity of the shell that determines its scientific value but how complete the data is.

Make sure your data label cannot become separated from the shell(s), no matter how the lot is moved around, dropped, packed up, etc.

If you keep a catalogue or field note books, make sure they stay with the collection, whatever happens.

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