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Use fun and simple art processes to turn painted shells into magic mermaid seashell necklaces that are hiding an oceanic surprise! Kids of all ages will love making these wearable deep sea treasures that are a fun summer DIY or beach craft.
Nothing says “summer” quite like a seashell necklace, but these beachy accessories are anything but your ordinary, run-of-the-mill souvenir shop find. Turn these lovely handpainted shells over and…SINK ME! Colorful crystal geodes protect a pearl (or maybe two or three if you’re lucky) with a magic mermaid enchantment.
So exactly what is the story behind these mesmerizing mermaid treasures? Well pull up a craggy rock and settle in for a tale, landlubbers. These magical pearls are made from mermaid tears (pause for dramatic effect…!). Captured in air bubbles and formed into little spheres, they make their way to the ocean surface and are hardened by the light of the moon.
For thousands of years, mermaids have been hiding these special pearls in a deep sea cave known as The Crystal Caverns, a secret spot guarded with a protective spell. There’s quite a treasure waiting to be discovered somewhere in the middle of the sea…
Though the hidden grotto has never been found, observant beachcombers have occasionally spotted this incredibly rare treasure washed up on a quiet beach after a big storm at sea.
Using the everyday magic of household supplies, you can create your very own charmed mermaid seashell necklaces. Part process art, part fine motor skill practice (with a healthy dose of imaginative creation!) this fun project is always a crowd-pleaser among young ocean enthusiasts and storytellers alike.
To make your own DIY seashell necklaces you can use:
Note: We prefer to shop locally or use what we have at home, but this list contains Woodpeckers Crafts, Etsy, Blick Art Materials, and/or Amazon affiliate links for reference. As Amazon Associates, we make a small commission on qualifying purchases.*
- Seashells (I used scallop shells like these or this set from Etsy).
- Watercolors and a paintbrush
- Small metal ring, 2-inch piece of wire, paperclip, or similar.
- Rock salt (I used this kind)
- Food coloring
- Clear or clear-drying school glue (like this kind)
- Ribbon (I used this kind), a necklace chain, leather cording, or similar
How to Make Magic Mermaid Seashell Necklaces – DIY Instructions:
- Use watercolors to paint your seashells
Use watercolors to paint your seashells. You can create soft beachy colors, use bold, bright tropical tints, try lots of colors on one shell, or experiment with washes and gradients.
Our watercolors only took about 10 minutes to soak into our shells and feel dry to the touch. You can skip to Step 3 while you wait for yours to dry!
Scallop shells worked great for this project, but you can experiment with other shells you have too.
- Glue on a necklace ring
To make these into a necklace, we’ll need a way to attach a ribbon. Drilling holes in delicate shells can be tricky, so I made a simple necklace ring out of a piece of wire (you can use a paperclip or any small round ring you can find). I bent the wire into a U-shape and bent the ends slightly so they would face down toward the shell.
Using craft glue or a hot glue gun, glue the ring onto the back of the seashell.
- Dye the rock salt
Time to create the crystals for our seashell geodes! Pour 1-2 tablespoons of rock salt into a small bowl, add 2-4 drops of food coloring (a little goes a long way!) then mix with a spoon. Repeat the same process to create as many colors of dyed rock salt as you’d like to use. I found 4-5 different colors gave a nice range to choose from and combine to create our geodes.
Although I haven’t tried it, you can also use liquid watercolors to dye the rock salt if you prefer.
Let the salt absorb the food coloring for about 5-7 minutes before moving on to the next step.
- Glue sprinkled rock salt to the back of your seashell
For the next step, begin by squeezing a generous amount of school glue onto the back of your shell. Use a brush or your fingertip to coat the entire back of the shell with a thick layer of glue, then begin sprinkling your dyed rock salt “crystals” onto the shell. We used a few different colors on ours to create cool layers of hues that give it an authentic “geode” look.
Note: I used white Elmer’s school glue because it’s what I had, and though it worked perfectly, clear school glue will give kids a better idea of what the final product will look like. If you have clear glue, you can also it for the next step instead of nail polish or Mod Podge.
- Coat with a protective clear finish
Because these are meant to be worn, I wanted to make sure to add some kind of protective coating so the color from the salt and shells wouldn’t leave marks on clothing.
Cover the back of your shells with a coat of clear nail polish, Mod Podge, or a similar clear-drying protectant and let dry to the touch (usually about 10-15 minutes).
Note: If you’re just going to be displaying your shells, you can skip this step!
- Add air-dry clay or wooden bead pearls! (Optional)
You can make a quick pearl out of air-dry clay or a small wooden bead. Use a few dots of craft glue or a hot glue gun to secure them onto the backs of your seashells.
I liked the idea of hidden pearls, but you can skip this step, or add any kind of detail you prefer. You can also decorate your seashells with glitter, pom poms, tiny shells, or other craft items.
How cool do these look?? The hardest part is waiting to show these off, because I recommend a full 48-72 hours of curing time before wearing. If you find that the school glue is pulling away from the shell a bit as it dries (it only happened with one of our shells), edge the crystal geode with a line of gorilla glue or similar permanent glue.
Variations on our painted seashell treasures
- Simplify your seashell necklace DIY. You can easily speed up this project by skipping the salt and hidden treasures and simply using painting seashells!
- Skip the necklace-making. I love turning art projects into functional items, but these crystalline shells are just as enchanting as a simple sit-in-special-place charm as a handmade reminder of summer. You can cut out a few of the steps and half of the supplies by simply skipping the necklace-making.
- Mix up magic seashell potions. For younger mermaid treasure-seekers, skip the crafting altogether and simply let them play by mixing the shimmery-colored rock salts in shells. Add small bowls of additives like flower petals, sand, table salt, colored waters, and an eyedropper or pipette for under-the-sea-themed experimentation.
- Learn about deep sea rocks, gemstones, and crystals. Ocean-formed gemstones and crystals are absolutely fascinating and this project provides a great segue into a bit of oceanic geology. You can discuss how they’re made (pearls, coral, and aragonite are all animal-made, for instance). Or try to find forms that mimic your necklaces (Cassiterite’s a good one – it’s made up of cool crystal-like masses).
- Host a summer mermaid art-making party. These little necklaces would make the most enchanting small mermaid party favors and are a cute craft for kids to put together at the beginning of a party and take home after drying.
For more beachy projects and activities, skate by our summer swim-themed playdough invitation, download a free printable beach scavenger hunt, or fire up our Spotify “By the Sea” playlist – with kid-friendly + adult-approved tunes for easy seaside listening or summer crafting.
*A note about affiliate links: We strive to use simple, earth-friendly supplies that can be purchased locally whenever we can, but sometimes we find the best universally available options, a rare eco-friendly find, or a niche product only available on Blick Art Materials, Amazon, Etsy, or Woodpeckers Crafts. When included in our supply list, these products are affiliate links, and if you click through to make a purchase we receive a small commission that helps us re-order these supplies!