History of Shell Jewelry

Shell jewelry is made of-you guessed it- shells. Seashells and sea snail shells to be more precise. Lesser known, there are also pieces made of non marine mollusks (i.e. land snails) or freshwater mollusks. There are several parts of the shell that are also used in jewelry varying from mother of pearl to the operculum. These shells are often drilled so that they can be strung together using string or wire. There is often a clasp to ensure the necklace stays fastened.

vintage-1490213_960_720Necklaces tend to be the most popular piece of shell jewelry, however, bracelets, anklets and even earrings are popular as well. Often we associate these pieces of jewelry with warm climates, beaches and more tropical destinations.They make great souvenirs for yourself or family on vacation and are often worn by and/or made by locals, adding some depth and significance to the jewelry. These pieces are often inexpensive, offering style and uniqueness at an affordable price.

Interestingly, shell jewelry is more than just inexpensive souvenir or costume pieces, it is actually the oldest type of jewelry known to mankind. This type of jewelry dates back over 100 000 years, the oldest piece found dates 135 000 years and was found in Israel. Historically, these pieces of jewelry had real significance and entirely different meaning than it does today. These pieces of jewelry offer archaeologists and historians some important insights as to the lifestyle, evolution and dates of prehistorical and ancient human life. It allows us to look closer at the way our ancestors lived, the way different cultures coexisted and the traditions that were important across these different cultures. So next time you look at buying a souvenir from your tropical vacation, think about all the history behind your new bracelet and your ancestors who started this literally timeless trend.

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