We focus herein on the mechanical behavior of highly crushable grains. The object of our interest, named shell, is a hollow cylinder grain with ring cross-section, made of baked clay. The objective is to model the fragmentation of such shells, by means of discrete element (DE) approach. To this end, fracture modes I (opening fracture) and II (in-plane shear fracture) have to be investigated experimentally. This paper is essentially dedicated to mode I fracture. Therefore, a campaign of Brazilian-like compression tests, that result in crack opening, has been performed. The distribution of the occurrence of tensile strength is shown to obey a Weibull distribution for the studied shells, and Weibull’s modulus was quantified. Finally, an estimate of the numerical/physical parameters required in a DE model (local strength), is proposed on the basis of the energy required to fracture through a given surface in mode I or II.