Abalone are a type of mollusk, like clams and oysters, except inside their flat, one-sided, ear-shaped shells, abalone have tentacles and feet. These sea snails cling to rocks near to shore, and are often consumed by other marine species. The shell of abalone is extremely durable. Microscopic calcium carbonate stack like bricks stuck together by a layer of protein. The protein absorbs blows to the shell, while the brick formation of the calcium carbonate keeps the shells from shattering.
In Native American cultures, the abalone shell is used as a smudge bowl to burn sage in. They believed that the abalone and sage together will carry their messages up to heaven.