Gather round fellow jewellery lovers, settle down and get comfortable because today I’ve got an egg-shaped treat for you and it’s called the cowrie shell.
If you’re the observant type or one who simply notices and keeps up with trends then you are most likely well aware that shells are currently seated high on the fashion jewellery trend list along with pearls, colourful beads and so much more (not leaving out of course the jewel of all time, the eternally trending diamond). But honey, let’s not get distracted by all the bling, our focus today after all isn’t a carbon-rich gem but rather a calcium-rich one.
First off, a little bit of anatomy;
Now I’m pretty sure you have seen a cowrie shell before, you probably even saw one today or you might even have some on your hair or in your jewellery box right now but I’m still going to go ahead and describe it anyway.
Cowrie shells are the shells of a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropods or molluscs regarded as cowries. They are usually smooth and shiny and are more or less egg shaped. The shell has a flat under side which is characterised by a long narrow slit-like opening that is often serrate at the edges (anatomy students probably be remembering the serratus anterior😂, rest my dear). They are commonly found in the Indian ocean and the Sahara desert.
A bit of history too;
Cowrie shells especially the common Monetaria moneta were used as currency for many centuries by many native Africans, I mean duh..not hard to figure out because money is literally in the name. In fact, the Ghanaian cedi was named after cowrie shells. About 3,000 years ago these shells were also used as Chinese currency and a means of exchange in India. The cowrie shell however stopped being used as money in the mid 19th century and was used in games in a way similar to the dice by rolling or shaking 6 cowrie shells in the hand, throwing and counting, when they land, the ones with the slit facing up. Cowries were also used in divination, as jewellery and even as embellishments on clothes and interior decoration. With urbanisation and development, however, cowrie shells all but vanished but they made a bold come back into the jewellery market in the summer of 2019 and with the current increase in awareness and movement to embrace our culture, one can safely hypothesise that cowrie shells are here to stay.
There are also myths and beliefs associated with the cowrie shell for example; It is an African legend that a love of cowrie shells shows you could be family to an ocean spirit of wealth and earth. It is said to represent the goddess of protection in the ocean. Cowrie shells have also been said to symbolise destiny and purpose and most especially wealth and fertility. In some cultures they believe placing a cowrie shell in the wallet attracts money ( don’t tell me you’re thinking of trying that)
Now everyone is entitled to their opinion and while some people find the myths above quite fascinating, others find it utterly ridiculous and some believe the cowrie shell to be a diabolical fetish, after all Nollywood has many times portrayed scenes of an old man in some fiendish shrine littered with skulls and femurs reciting incantations and getting feedback from the gods with the aid of cowrie shells. Needless to say, these set of people will see wearing a cowrie shell ornament as a taboo but keep in mind that cowrie shells are natural elements meaning they were made by God Himself and so adorning one’s self with a God-made ornamental should definitely not be a problem at all. It’s like saying that because you saw a cat turn into a human being in a movie, you’ d never have a cat as a pet (even though you love cats) or worse, that because you’ve heard stories of or even witnessed a knife being used to kill and stab people, you’ll never use a knife to cut or dice your veggies again. I know right… very ridiculous. A lot could be said on the matter but if you’re a believer like I am, and you still need clarity on that, you could read 1 Corinthians chapter 8 and apply a similar understanding.
Moving on, cowrie shell jewellery come in different amazing designs and the shells themselves could be the classic white or cream shell or any other fun colour. They can be used to embellish exquisite dresses or to make neck pieces, bracelets, rings, anklets, hair accessories, you just name it! They are such perfect adornment for a day at the beach. Personally, I find the black and gold cowrie shells absolutely gorgeous so if you’re looking to add a touch of African bling to your look then cowrie shells are a fantastic way to go. The Coming 2 America movie out in cinemas since last month surely proved that. I mean those costumes with the cowrie shells were so lit! so go ahead with them cowrie shells and you already know that you’re sure to be on fleek. Oh wait!, I forgot. “To be on fleek is no more” 😅😁. Well then, you’re sure to look fire.