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Fair Trade Jewelry and Ethical Fashion

How Moms are Overcoming Poverty with Capiz Shells

by | Artisans

Read Time: 3 min.

Natural Capiz Shells

Natural Capiz Shell 2

Every pair of handcrafted capiz shell earrings begins at the bottom of the sea surrounding the Philippine Islands.

Named for its abundance in the province of Capiz, the capiz shell is the lining of a marine mollusk.

Before glass was available in the Philippines, this shell was used to create windows because of its translucent qualities, earning the mollusk its nickname, “windowpane oyster.”

Local divers collect these mollusks around the coastal regions during the summertime when the water is clear. Picking each mollusk by hand, they gather them in bamboo baskets before loading them into small fishing boats.

Handcrafted by Artisans

Once the mollusks reach the shore, local women gather them for shucking, cleaning, drying, sizing, counting, and then selling to local Artisans. The sale of capiz shells to Artisans provides sustainable income for many families in coastal villages throughout the Philippine Islands.

Artisans like Retchel craft these capiz shells into jewelry and home décor.

They begin by cutting the capiz into custom shapes, either by hand or using a special tool to punch large quantities of consistent sizes.

Each shell is then carefully cleaned and rinsed, once again, to ensure sterilization and enhance the natural color and the appearance of “frosted glass”.

Once dry, the cut shells are bound into metal frames.

Artisans then solder the pieces together by hand to create each design and electroplate the metal parts to prevent tarnishing.

Each shell is then carefully cleaned and rinsed, once again, to ensure sterilization and enhance the natural color and the appearance of “frosted glass.”

The shells are dried on large wire racks before Artisans solder them into wire frames to create each piece of  jewelry.

Moonlight Earrings from the Philippines
Grace Earrings from the Philippines
Wooden Capiz Earrings

Finally, Artisans package them and ship them to Trades of Hope.

Retchel’s Story of Hope

For Retchel, capiz earrings are more than a source of creative expression or unique fashion accessory. They are a source of lifechanging hope for her entire family.

Retchel's Family in the Philippines

Her work as a fair-trade Artisan has relieved many of their family’s financial pressures and even allowed them to begin saving toward their dream of starting a business.

“For years, my husband traveled six days a week to provide for our basic needs.” – Retchel

Retchel is hopeful that – because of the income she’s earning as a capiz shell Artisan – soon her husband won’t have to leave them anymore.

When you purchase our natural capiz shell earrings from the Philippines, you’re partnering with Retchel and other Artisans in her community.

You’re investing in creating jobs that provide sustainable income with access to healthcare and education.

You’re investing in keeping these families together and helping them create better futures.

“My work is a big help to us. Now, I can buy toys, school supplies, snacks, and even send money to my mother. I can do housework and be with our children.”

– Retchel, Artisan in the Philippines

More Philippines Blogs

Click on each photo below to discover more about our Artisan partners and products in THE PHILIPPINES.

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  1. Jackie Wagner

    Do they ever dye the shells to get the green appearing shells?

    • Kathy Thomas

      Great question! We added a “How It’s Made” video just for you! Enjoy!


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Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas

Kathy Thomas is an inspirational writer with a passion for helping women discover and celebrate their unique gifts and abilities. Kathy is part of the Communications Team at Trades of Hope focusing on Artisan advocacy.