Sand dollars and other wondrous treasures of the sea


I love the sea.

No secret there, seeing that I come from a family of islanders from all over Greece. My great-grandfathers hailed from the Ionian Sea (the islands of Corfu and Lefkada), the Aegean Sea (the island of Lemnos) and the Cretan Sea (Sfakia, in Crete).

I often like to say that all three Greek seas run in my veins and as such, I feel that I can’t live without it. I can’t remember life ever being more miserable than it was during the only time in my life that I lived far from salty water. It was a grisly year that I spent in the very center of England once, suffocating every minute.

Having said that, you can imagine how blissful I feel these days, having made a home for myself and my husband in a small, serene town on the surf, very close to Athens. Any sunny day all year round is a chance to hit the beach, whether it’s just for a walk during winter or for a cooling dip on a blistering, summer’s day.

During my visits to the local beach, I also like to pick seashells. I’ve always jumped at the chance to do this, and often display my findings around the house in glass bowls and shelves. I’ve acquired a large selection of really rare ones too over the years, from visits to secluded beaches on the island of Lemnos.

In our local beach, the seabed is rich with sea-urchin shells. Often in the summer, I dive to collect them, then make decorations by putting them through string as you can see in this picture.


With their soft colors in all possible shades of purple, pink and green, I used to think they are the prettiest things ever to some out of the sea; that is, until recently.

A couple of weeks ago, my Greek-American friend and amazing amateur photographer, Kathy Poulos Gregory, posted the following picture on Facebook that had me marveling, mesmerized. Apparently, she picked this beautiful selection of shells in a beach in California where she lives and even found that red plastic crab toy that I thought really made her  picture!

sand dollars

“What on earth are those amazing, round things?” I asked her. It turns out these are sand dollars (also called sea cookies in New Zealand) and they are a kind of sea urchin that burrows in the sand. I guess this makes them a distant cousin to the ones I collect in my part of the world!

A quick Google search yielded some more amazing pictures – sand dollars in purple shades, and also a certain variety that’s called ‘keyhole sand dollar’ thanks to the perforations it bears.

I must say, having spent hours and hours of my sea-worshiping life picking shells of various kinds, I foolishly thought I’d seen it all, but it turns out the sea treasures of the world are much more wondrous than I imagined.

So until I see something even prettier than this, although I can’t imagine, the sand dollar is now the prize seashell for me! If I’m ever in the U.S., the Carribean or even Brazil, you guys know where I’ll be and what I’ll be looking for!

So what about you? Is there a certain kind of seashell that you find particularly beautiful? Do you perhaps pick them at your local beach and if so, where?


6 responses to “Sand dollars and other wondrous treasures of the sea

  1. What a great way to greet summer, Fros! Wonderful heart-warming post! I’m not a sea person in that I don’t enjoy being wet, cold and itchy from dried salt on my skin (yes, that’s my take on swimming) but I love walking on sand and collecting pebbles. I have quite the collection from our yearly visit on the island of Alonissos in the North Aegean, which I polish and display in various ways. Can’t wait to add to them this year! 🙂


  2. i come from crete.
    and i have never found one until recently my friend found some in florida and gave some to me
    i have a whole seashell collection
    in greece your first picture of the sea urchin neckalce and 2 starfish
    i love
    i collect ahinous too!
    in greek we call them ahinous


    • Thank you Emmanouella for your kind comments. I live just out of Athens so I fish my own ‘axinoi’ – as you know, there are no sand dollars here. Hey, my paternal great-grandfather was Cretan 🙂 Have a great day 🙂


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