Shell of the Month November 2010

Cypraea aurantium, Gmelin 1791. In the  Fiji and Solomon Islands the Golden Cowrie is a symbol of power and rank for chieftains. Until recently it was considered very rare. Then its habitat was discovered and now reaches the market in sufficient numbers. The cowrie lives in deep water inside of caves which explains why beached specimens are seldom seen. When Philippine divers first learned where to find the golden cowrie they kept the habitat and locations secret to preserve the value. Until recently very few specimens came with data. Although available now to collectors, gem quality specimens are extremely rare. Something in the growth cycle cause stress marks as the animal reaches maturity and virtually every specimen has a few growth lines, often making the shell ugly.  Our specimen, while not a gem is has minimal growth lines that do not distract. The specimen is from the collection of Richard Kent.

Cypraea aurantium, Gmelin 1791, Collected under ledge inside cave by hookah diver at 25 to 30 meters deep, night time, off Prieto Diaz, Albay Gulf. Philippines 2006. Size about 3 1/2″ or 90mm

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