The Sand DollarLet me tell you something about treasures of the Sea...
So, you all know the fairytale about the sand dollar, right? No? My personal favorite is the one about the mermaids. As a child, you may have heard that sand dollars are lost money from mermaids living out in the sea. I like this one the most, because I like believing in mermaids. But since I’ve never actually seen a mermaid, it’s very likely nothing more than a sweet story. There is also a Catholic legend that is still told and it doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic or not, it’s also a sweet story and doesn’t do any harm to other religions. I’m sure there a many more, but again, I like mermaids and believe it or not - It took me 30 years to find my first Sand Dollar washed up on the beach. Do you have any idea how excited I was? Well, even the most seasoned beachcomber is excited and pleased to find a whole, intact sand dollar on the beach. Josh and I went for a beach walk on a sunny November Sunday and just like that, we where surrounded by shells on shore. I’ve never seen so many shells at La Jolla Shores in San Diego. I guess, it was just my lucky day.
What are Sand Dollars (Echinarachnius parma)?
The Sand Dollar is a flat-looking burrowing sea urchin that loves smooth sandy or muddy ocean floors. They mainly live in shallow water, near land and after being washed up on the beach and bleached white by the sun, its shape and color make it it look like a large silver dollar.
How to Find Sand Dollars?
The common sand dollar, or particular type of “flattened” sea urchin, can usually be found in the Northern Hemisphere in temperate and tropical waters. On a good day you can find many sand dollars as big as four inches in diameter. Beachcombers like us are most likely to find sand dollars at low tide, especially after stormy weather.
When they're still alive they're actually darker, purplish, and covered with short dark spines (called “cilla") that look kind of like fur. By moving the cilla, sand dollars are able to move across the sea beds in which they live. If you find a living sand dollar it should not be removed from the beac, but if you find a sand dollar skeleton on the beach, and it's white (so you know it's not still alive), then you may take your treasure home with you. But they are very fragile - here’s what to do to preserve them:
- First, soak it in fresh water. As the water clouds up and starts to smell, drain it off and repeat until the water stays clear.
- After that, put your sand dollar in a 2:1 solution of water and bleach, soak for about 10 minutes.
- Rinse them thoroughly with fresh water and let them dry.
- While waiting, mix a 50:50 solution of fresh water and "white glue”. When the sand dollars are dry, carefully paint them with a mixture that is half water and half white glue. Let the glue solution dry on the top side, then turn over and apply to the other side.
- After that's all completely dry, the glue solution will make them less likely to break and they can be handled, made into jewelry, etc. Your sand dollars will last a long time if treated with care.