Cowrie collection

I am not really an ornament collector, but I do love shells. Every time that Willie goes fishing in Mozambique, he brings back with him a couple more of these Cowrie shells. Some still are bright and colourful, others have been dulled by the sea.

Some more background from Wikipedia:

Cowry, also sometimes spelled cowrie, plural cowries, is the common name for a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks in the family Cypraeidae, the cowries. The word cowry is also often used to refer only to the shells of these snails, which overall are often shaped more or less like an egg, except that they are rather flat on the underside.

Many people throughout history have found (and still find) the very rounded, shiny, porcelain-like shells of cowries pleasing to look at and to handle. Indeed the term “porcelain” derives from the old Italian term for the cowrie shell (porcellana) due to their similar translucent appearance.  Shells of certain species have historically been used as currency in several parts of the world, as well as being used, in the past and present, very extensively in jewellery, and for other decorative and ceremonial purposes.





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I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at and (my photoblog)


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10 Comments on “Cowrie collection”

  1. December 21, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    What a beautiful collection, Lisa. They all look unique and perfect – nature is amazing like that, don’t you think?
    Hope you’re doing ok – I’ve been thinking of you lots.
    Sunshine xx

    • December 21, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

      Yes, nature is amazing. As you may have guessed by now I’m a huge fan! 😉

      Thanks for the thoughts. It’s been cooler here than usual (with lots of rain) so I’m doing okay still.

  2. December 21, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    These are beautiful shells, each one with a unqiue pattern. I like!

  3. December 22, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    I too love shells, Lisa–really love them. And last Christmas, when we were at the beach in Vietnam, I collected a huge number of cowrie shells, though I didn’t know until reading your post and seeing your photos that that’s what they’re called. Great post, Lisa! I love it that I always learn something new when I read your blog!

    • December 22, 2010 at 5:57 am #

      Glad I could help to clear up that mystery for you! 🙂

      Thank you for your kind comment. I’m pleased that at last I’ve been able to put my endless supply of “fascinating but ultimately not very useful” facts to some good use.

  4. Madoqua
    November 2, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    These are so beautiful. Interesting how shell lovers tend to have favourite species. There are certainly plenty to choose from!

  5. Karen
    April 16, 2016 at 10:52 am #

    Hi Lisa, I visited your area last weekend, south coast, Kelso, and found a lovely cowrie between the rocks, can you give me the common name for these dark cowries that are mainly found on SA south coast, as i visited the ‘shell shop’ in Scottburgh and the owner mentioned they are only found on the south coast, and the colour beieng so dark is because of something in the water?The size of my cowrie is 8.5 x 5 x 4. It is the same as the middle picture you showed. Thx Karen

    • April 23, 2016 at 8:17 am #

      Hi Karen!

      I don’t know much about the variations in cowrie shells along the coastline.The cowrie shells I have are from Mozambique. Willie (who brought them back for me) says that he’s noticed that cowrie shells in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Southern Mozambique are darker than the ones he’s collected further north in Mozambique. And from the ones I have they are also patterned differently. I assumed that this was because they are different species, but will have to do some more research on the subject.

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment! 🙂

    • April 23, 2016 at 12:08 pm #

      According to the information I have found, most of the cowrie shells I have are called Tiger Cowries. Have a look at this Wikipedia page: and there is another page with the shells of various species:
      I haven’t found any info about why some shells are darker than others.

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