Jingle Shells aka Mermaids’ Toenails

Jingle Shells

Jingle Shells

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.

About Dustytoes

I grew up in New England but spent most of my life living in central Florida. Now I'm back up north and blog about seashells, beaches, gardening, boating, fishing, hiking, photography, PKD, and my work as a designer for Zazzle. I move around a lot and try to discover the best in all places I live. Life may be tough, but it's not boring.
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13 Responses to Jingle Shells aka Mermaids’ Toenails

  1. Brianna says:

    I also heard that sea glass is nicknamed “mermaid tears” and so is the jem stone Aquamarine.

  2. Brianna says:

    I heard that they also nicknamed them “mermaid scales”.

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  4. I was on Long Island last May. I returned home with a cigar box full of these shells. They are my favorite, and bring back a lot of chilhood memories!

  5. Pingback: The Lure of the Mythical Mermaid | Seashells by Millhill

  6. I just moved to Naples, Florida and there are Jingle Shells all up and down the Coast here from Marco Island to Ft. Myers. I had no idea what they were called when I first arrived here so i just called them the glass shells lol

  7. Pingback: Seashell Identification: How I Got Started | Seashells by Millhill

  8. Love reading this.

    Can you please tell me where the “mermaid’s toes” are commonly found.
    I adore the name.

    At our summer cottage in Maine we collect “mermaid’s tears,” which are small, sea sanded pieces of colorful beach glass. I treasure each piece.

    Thanks for your writing!

    Sharon Lovejoy

    • Hi Sharon,
      thanks for viewing my blog!

      I replied to your question in my post – and there are other shells on the west coast called Jingle shells, but they look different according to the pictures in my reference book. Mine were found in Florida.
      Your “mermaid’s tears” sound beautiful. I don’t have any beach glass, just lots of shells!
      Glad you stopped by.

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