The Legend of the Pawley’s Island Shell


Dear Reader:

Before I left to go to Pawley’s  Island last Wednesday I worked diligently on the five extra blog posts needed to cover the five days I would be gone… based on our earlier decision to stay from Wednesday to Sunday.  Then last Saturday afternoon, with the fog, rain, and tornado warnings, we decided that all of us would wait until Monday to come home.

fullsizerenderIt was like an albatross was lifted off our shoulders…none of us were ready to leave! We had such a good time catching up on each other’s lives and planning for future adventures… that we couldn’t bring ourselves to part Sunday. It made our last ‘eat-out’ finale meal Saturday night even better ….because it wasn’t going to be our “Last Supper” together after all. (We were happier than the clams in the clam chowder soup.)

I did some research on Pawley’s Island (before I left) to see if there was a new legend or ghost story or just an interesting place to visit while we were there this year…since by now we have “hit” most of the more famous spots. When I googled “Best of the Pawley Island Legends” up popped “The Legend of the Pawley’s Island Shell.”

207610_196184230419860_861979_nWhen I realized that the Pawley’s Island Shell was made famous by John Whitmire of Whitmire’s Fine Jewelry… which is located in The Hammock Shops off Highway 17 and one of our annual “haunts” for shopping… I was thrilled!


Friday, the most beautiful of all the days at Pawley’s, we went there first and what a wonderful maxresdefaultexperience we had visiting the shop and finding out more about the legend and the tedious process of turning Pawley’s Island shells into beautiful silver and gold jewelry…lasting mementos for tourists and their indelible stay at Pawleys. The whole process is done right there in the shop.

img_4827Mr. Whitmire was out-of-town but his young apprentice/assistant was there by the name of Jeremy Cambrey. *It is so nice to meet young people who are passionate about what they do and they want to share the experience with you… that is exactly what happened.


The whole process from sea shell to silver or gold jewelry is around 34 hours and no more than five shell pieces can be done at a time. *Jeremy, I wish I could remember all the techniques and terms but I am just going to pick out some of the photos I took from the simulated procedure to give readers the main idea….the time and knowledge that goes into making silver and gold Pawley’s Island shells is mind-blowing. Here are a few peeks into just some of the steps involved.

It really is like watching a potter start with a piece of clay and turn out a beautiful Grecian urn at the end. It was just amazing and how kind of Jeremy to take the time to show us in the back room what all goes into making a Pawley’s Island silver or gold piece of jewelry.











As I said…these are just some of the intricate, time-consuming steps that go into making Whitmire’s Pawleys Island Shell jewelry. I really felt like I had gone back to the colonial period and was watching a young apprentice learning and perfecting his trade. Absolutely fascinating!

On several different internet resources I read before leaving,  the story begins with John Whitmire leaving the Piedmont/Mountain regions of the state to move to the coast. He immediately began acquainting himself with his new surroundings by taking long walks on the beach and collecting a variety of shells. He was looking for something indigenous to the area, so as to make a beautiful piece of jewelry, something to connect with the area…an exquisite memento for tourists.

cd2ed4b26b310597ac9f7f8b76c06304When he kept finding some particular shells that he could not identify…he began asking “home-grown” inhabitants of the Pawley’s Island area what they were. Most people shrugged and said, “Oh that is our Pawley’s Island shell.” He knew he had found what he was looking for.

He experimented until he had created the beautiful pieces one sees immediately upon entering Whitmire’s Fine Jewelry shop. Then he advertised his new addition to his jewelry collection and the rest is history.

*It wasn’t until later he discovered that the Pawley’s Island Shell and the Imperial Venus Clam are one and the same. They are also found in other areas besides Pawleys…but still this was the shell inhabitants of the region identified and claimed as theirs… because of its abundance in the area.

Jeremy gave me a Pawley’s Island shell with a little written legend accompanying it as a gift.


fullsizerender(I brought the shell and slip of paper containing the story and put it in front of my small centerpiece on the table…so I will remember it.)

Jeremy, I want to thank you and, also, to tell you that the Ya’s came to Whitmire’s Fine Jewelry first and left with the shell and legend. As many times as we have come to Pawley’s for  this mid-winter retreat…this year’s  topped all the others…the weather was warm… three days of bright blue skies…we all left the mid-winter retreat certainly feeling blessed beyond measure. It truly is “The Blessed Isle.


One observation I made while we were able to readily access the front porch this year with temps in the 60’s and 70’s is that we are all creatures of habit. Every time we went out on the porch everyone went to their “assigned” seat/rocking chair. It was where everyone felt most comfortable…no one has ever changed places…from past to present retreats. What we learned, however, is that the rocking chairs were all we had control over…the weather conditions and lights were something else.









No matter how hard we tried to continue the status quo Mother Nature played her part changing the light and shadows of the views from the porch, as well as, the porch itself. No day is exactly the same as the one before it or after it. Each day is uniquely special…that is why we must seize the moment!

I love this little historically preserved old bait house across the street from Carolina Corner…I am drawn to it each year. If its walls could talk what tales it could tell!










fullsizerenderWhat happens at the beach does stay there…it is an oasis of freedom of speech at its best….we all know everything there is to know about each other and love each Ya unconditionally. What a gift this is…and we know it.

*Linda and Sherrod, thank you, thank you, thank you, for this unique opportunity to be together in paradise a few days each winter.

Seafood began and ended our mid-winter retreat. Brooke, Jackson, and I met at the River Room, as usual, in Georgetown (on the way down) to get the party going on!


img_2108Brooke’s smile is rather pensive….she left her wallet in her grandson’s baby stroller the day before we left; it was packed up and went home with her son Riley and his wife Veronica. She didn’t even know she didn’t have it until Wednesday morning…the day we left!

Wonderful Veronica fed-ex’ed it right to the beach house arriving Thursday by noon. Brooke just confidently but slowly drove to Pawleys Wednesday…a woman of steel. Nothing was keeping her from Pawleys! “You are woman…hear you roar” girl!

So until tomorrow…I feel re-invigorated, full as a tick, happy, and ready to take on the world again with all its problems…I know how blessed I am to have friends to retreat with when  life gets a little bumpy! Glad to be back home now with my blog and readers!


“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*More WORDS TO LIVE BY: Libby, Brooke, and Jackson thought about their ‘perfect’ word for 2017 and here are their selections

  1. fullsizerenderEMBRACE: Libby wants to embrace new possibilities and changes in her life that will help her grow both inwardly and outwardly… reaching towards new horizons

2.fullsizerender RENEWAL: After such an invigorating mid-winter retreat Brooke decided her word for the New Year was renewal…for giving herself time to rest and reflect on doing what she needs to do to be the best she can be…for herself and others.

3.fullsizerender AWARENESS: Jackson first considered the word “strong” and then decided on “awareness.” She wants to be strong in her commitment to be aware of local, national, and global injustices that do not promote equality or kindness among mankind…and then react.


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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8 Responses to The Legend of the Pawley’s Island Shell

  1. Cathy McQueen says:

    I so thoroughly enjoyed your blog about Pawley’s Island. JHW and I were high school classmates so that connection and his sharing of your blag drew me in. You are a gifted storyteller and I was right there with you as you shared all about your friends weekend at the beach.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Cathy, what a nice compliment and comment! All of us Ya’s met at Erskine College our freshman year and have been inseparable ever since…we finish each other’s sentences. I love that you and JHW were high school classmates…a God Wink for sure. It was a wonderful experience to learn more about the legend and process. And I do feel “blessed” to have had that special moment.


  2. Enjoyed it all. And JHW has been a friend for over 45 years! Love you man and all the beauty you have given to us through your art!!


  3. It was a pleasure having you ladies at the shop! Thank you so much for your kind words!


    • Becky Dingle says:

      It was our pleasure- passion for work and life is contagious! Jeremy…you are going places young man because you go the extra mile! Thank you for the information and kindness shown! Sincerely Becky Dingle


  4. Scott Nivens says:

    I recently learned about the Pawleys Island shell from a friend. I set out on a hunt for one of those little shells and came up empty! Shark teeth, no problem. Pawley shell, one must have a very strong neck for the hunt. And a strong desire! Your article turned up first in my research. I must say you are quite the intriguing writer. I just really enjoyed reading about the closeness you have with your friends. Thank you for making me smile. Scott


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Scott…I am so sorry you had such a tough time finding a Pawley’s shell….maybe they have all been turned into jewelry….actually Jeremy Cambrey (who works at the shop) gave me one as a memento….so go in the jewelry store and tell him your story and our discussion and I bet you will leave with a copy of the legend and a shell like I did. Much easier than straining your neck…they are small.

      Thank you also for your kindness and interest in reading about the Ya’s as we call ourselves…old college roommates sharing our lives again during the autumn of life…I am glad I could make you smile. You made me do so with your comments!


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