Jingle shells (Anomia ephippium) are not hard to find on the beaches of Florida. This picture shows my collection. They can also be found from Massachusetts to Brazil according to my seashell book.
They have been given the nickname “Mermaid’s Toenails” and I can see why. They are wrinkled and polished looking and come in a variety of translucent colors from shades of orange to dark gray, with white and off-white being common as well.
The “jingle” part of their name comes from the fact that they make a jingling sound when a group of them is collected and shaken around in your pocket or pail. Their thinness does not mean they are fragile, in fact they are very sturdy little shells that measure around one to two inches across. The pretty variety of colors makes them perfect for display or creating crafts and they add interest in a jar of shells.
The mollusk that makes the shell usually attaches itself to something – a rock or even another larger shell – in the ocean. It also takes the form of the item it attaches to which would explain it’s bumpy appearance. Then, when the bivalve shell splits apart – for whatever reason, only one half washes up on shore. The other half is still attached to the place where it lived, or breaks since it is the thinner part of the shell. You will most likely not find a jingle shell in two parts on the beach and the part you do find is probably the left half.