Art and craft

The Society's main purpose is scientific but man has collected shells for food, utility and decoration. Our ancestors recognised that as well as practical tools and utensils there was an intrinsic beauty in shells: their shape, colours and patterns. Because they were easy to find on the shore and they were durable and easily worked they became useful and beautiful. Their bright colours caused them to become objects of desire, symbols of power in religion (trumpets) and as money.

Today they are extensively used in craft-work as whole or part shells and particular parts of shells are made into cameos and mother-of-pearl, and pearls are themselves jewels. They are also depicted in art of various sorts, fine porcelain, on stamps and paper money. Whole shells have been made into money, (money cowries and tusk shells) and carved into beads (wampum). In Victorian times decorated caves and grottos were fashionable, today they are used in summer-houses and as garden ornaments. Pictures and mirrors are framed in whole shells, vases and furniture are inlaid with mother-of-pearl and all other shell artefacts. Because they are tough shells have been made into fish hooks and used for oil lights.

Today and historically shells have been extensively used as jewellery to make people look more attractive or powerful. The golden cowrie was once used to indicate kingship, and there are many examples of necklaces, pendants, broaches and bracelets all made from shells. Cameos use the different coloured layers of some shells, they are carved into beautiful bas-relief portraits of great value. Mother-of-pearl has been used extensively on cutlery, fans and bowls, a favourite decorative piece are pearly nautilus cups embellished with gold, silver and jewels.

Souvenirs have been made extensively, with the name of the town added to the item, they range from the tatty via the horrid to the beautiful in shells and porcelain.