I think that it is fair to say that shells have been used as a status symbol in personal adornment throughout the centuries. Shells were used whole or a portion of the shell and attached to clothing; strung as necklaces or bracelets for jewelry; or even used in headdresses or hair ornaments. Shells were especially prized in cultures that traded for these precious items such as middle eastern cultures where the vintage mother of pearl button and the inlaid shell with sterling silver came from.
These two necklaces were made during the Victorian England era where shells were used extensively for adornment and household items, see Friday’s Favorites Mother of Pearl part 1 for more information. These are made from small snail shells that have a single hole drilled through shell in order to string them into a necklace. The earrings are made from shells that are glued to a metal base.
This is a sampling of the types of earrings that were made as souvenirs for the tourist trade during the 1940’s through the 1970’s. I especially love the parrots which are made entirely from shells except for the rhinestones glued around the collar.
Shells were also used for adornment by sailors who decorated small boxes or picture frames for their sweethearts back home, long before they became an established item for the tourist trade. These vintage greeting cards are painted with water-color then decorated with small shells.
This unusual group of jewelry is made from a combination of shells and garfish (a flat fish that dried hard and could be painted). In the first pair of earrings the fish have been painted white and adorned with rhinestones. The pin and earring have combined painted shells for flowers and garfish that are painted green to resemble the leaves.
These small coin purses are made from a variety of shells. The Mother of Pearl coin purse is the oldest, probably 1940’s or so, where as the scallop and cowrie shell ones are newer. These items are usually found at a sea port shop or shell store.
Thanks for stopping by, enjoy- Christen