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Nautical Wedding DIY: Gilded Oyster Decor

Editor’s Note: I’m re-sharing this perfect coastal DIY for a wedding today! 

DSC_0793I fell in love with the idea of gilded oyster shells earlier this year when I shared Sarah and Scott’s Cape Cod wedding – the couple hit up oyster house happy hours to collect shells and Sarah hosted a girls night with her bridesmaids to paint the shells. The gilded oysters were such a chic detail in their nautical wedding! … So a few weekends ago, when some friends went out with us to celebrate my husband’s birthday (to J’s favorite seafood haunt), I started eyeing the oyster shells on the giant seafood tower at our table. I brought three of the beauties home with me and ended up creating my own gilded shells. I thought you might be interested in a step-by-step tutorial in case you’re planning a coastal wedding (or just want something pretty to place your wedding ring in!) so here you go:



– Oyster shells (Order them at oyster houses and ask to keep the shells or just ask the waiter for discarded shells. When I asked to keep our table’s shells, the waiter told me a lot of people ask for discarded shells so don’t feel weird about it. 😉 Alternatively, if you live somewhere coastal, scope out the beaches. When we lived on the Mississippi Sound, the beaches were covered in oysters.)
– Bleach (I recommend chlorine-free but that’s up to you)
– Gold paint
– Paint brush
– Bucket
– Mineral oil (optional – it helps to polish the shell)
– Paper towel
– Rubber gloves
– Old toothbrush


How to Make Gilded Oysters:

Step One | With gloved hands (eye protection would be good, too), mix one part bleach to one part water in your bucket. Then submerge your oyster shells in the mixture, making sure they are completely covered by the mixture. Let them sit for 3 hours.

Step Two | With gloved hands, carefully remove the oyster shells from the bleach mixture and rinse under running water. Use an old toothbrush to remove any remaining grit or animal from the shell. If the shells still have a pungent sea odor, repeat step one again until they are odorless.

Step Three | Place the cleaned shells on a paper towel and let them air dry.

Step Four | Coat the inside of each shell with mineral oil to restore its natural shine. (optional! I only did this on one of my shells)

DSC_0703Step Five | Once the shells are completely dry, it’s time to paint! I did three variations as you can see so get creative! (You can also use gold leaf in place of paint. I just used paint because I already had it at home. Here’s a great tutorial via Lobster and Swan on how to gold leaf oyster shells.)

Step Six | Let the paint dry and then use the shells however your heart desires!

DSC_0766 DSC_0785DSC_0723DSC_0749Let me know if you end up making gilded oyster shells! 🙂

Want more wedding DIYs? Here’s a few from the CB archives:
– Organic cranberry lip balm
Glittered Skeleton Key necklace
Cinnamon Bath Salts
– Coconut Milk Conditioner
(these make great gifts for your bridesmaids or as an inclusion in a welcome box for guests!)

ps. Love that vintage green Through Europe on Two Dollars a Day book? I’m happy to sell it – if you want to make an offer, just e-mail me at sarah[at]

Photos + styling by moi. 


  1. stacey stacey

    Can you please share what gold paint you used, and how much? Thank you!

    • Hi Stacey! I just used a small bottle of gold acrylic paint that I had on hand and I probably only used like 0.3% of that so very little! Hope that helps! xx

  2. Sharlene Maniscalco Sharlene Maniscalco

    Can you tell me what kind of glue you used to attach the pearls? I did some art with the gilded oyster shells and hot glue didn’t hold on the painted part of the shell. E6000 worked but it dries so slowly it was hard to keep the pieces in place until it cured.

    • Hi Sharlene,

      I actually didn’t use glue in this tutorial – just paint! Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  3. Laura Laura

    Would you recommend painting over the gold with some sort of clear sealant, so that the gold doesn’t flake off over time? Can you share whether or not your gilded seashells have held up without it? Thanks!

    • Hi Laura – I think that’s a personal preference but you could certainly use a sealant if you wanted. I’d probably try to find a matte sealant, if possible. Unfortunately, I can’t say how the shells have held up as I gave them as gifts. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help! Thanks for stopping by CBB. xo.

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