The most beautiful souvenirs from a beach vacation in South Carolina also just happen to be the least expensive and the most fun to find: seashells.
So as you wander down those long, endless stretches of white sand, keep your eyes peeled for the perfect shell. Here are 5 of the prettiest shells on our beaches:
The Lettered Olive
The lettered olive is the state shell of South Carolina. It's an almost perfectly smooth cylinder, with a tiny whirl on the top like a Dr. Seuss hat. It fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. Its straight, even brown markings on a creamy-colored background looked to someone long ago like letters. The animal who lives in the shell, the lettered olive itself, is a carnivorous snail who captures small crustaceans and clams, drags them under the sand and digests them. Yikes! Luckily, the lettered olive only grows to about two inches in length, so no need to fear the bloodthirsty snail while you play in the waves.
The Jingle Shell
As great as the name jingle shell is, this shell has an even better nickname: witch's toenail. It must be a drop-dead gorgeous witch, though, because this iridescent, glowing, translucent shell is mesmerizing. Maybe it got that nickname because it's bewitching? These golden-orange shells also make the prettiest, most cheerful sound when they clink together. Just try to have a few jingle shells in your pocket and not swirl them around to make music.
Whelks are like fairytale shells, the shells a princess would use to make a crown, or a fairy would use as a ship, or a little girl would listen to and learn that she's got magical powers. And while most shells lose much of their allure when they are broken and worn away, a whelk is even more beautiful when its outer shell is chipped away and its inner pink swirl is revealed.
The banded tulip is swirled, striped and mottled, like a shrunken combination of zebra, leopard and conch from a mad scientist's secret beach laboratory. How could it not be fascinating?
Atlantic Moon Snail
Atlantic moon snail shells are like the Cabbage Patch Kids of shells - all round and dimpled, swirled and plump. But the snails have a dark side. Have you ever seen a perfectly round little hole in a clamshell, the kind that makes the shell perfect for turning into a necklace? Ever wondered where it came from? Well, it came from the adorable little Atlantic moon snail, a bloodthirsty predator who drills a hole into the clam, sucks out the poor creature and eats it. It's adorable, with a dark side.
There are dozens of other types of shells to find, so be on the lookout for your favorite. Just remember, if you find a shell with a living animal still inside, throw it back into the ocean. There are plenty of other beautiful shells out there that some little creature doesn't need to survive.