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Check if There’s Anything You Didn’t Know About “What is Cowrie Shell Jewelry”

A smiling woman wearing a seed bead necklace with cowrie shell pendants and natural pearls

Source: Pinterest

Adding a statement cowrie shell jewelry to a summer dress can give a woman an instant refresh. But what is cowrie shell jewelry? This blog will show you every significant thing about cowrie shell jewelry, including cowrie shells, its symbolism and types of fashionable cowrie shell jewelry, etc. 

What is a Cowrie Shell?

Cowrie or cowry shells are natural seashells of a group of large to small sea snails. In cowrie live ocean gastropod mollusks. Cowrie shells abound in the Indian Ocean, especially in the Maldives and the East Indies.

What Does a Cowrie Shell Look Like?

Different types of cowrie shells on a necklace

Source: Pinterest

Have you ever noticed? Every summer,  white shells in ridged egg-shaped with slit openings on the bottom go viral among seashell jewelry. That is the typical appearance of the cowrie shell. 

These small and white cowrie shells look pretty similar to porcelain. That is why the term “porcelain” stems from the old Italian term for the cowrie shell (porcellana).

You can also realize that some cowries feature spots in light reddish-brown color on the jewelry. 

Where are Cowrie Shells Found?

Globally, cowrie shells are extensively found in the Indian Ocean. They’re collected in these regions: Sri Lanka, Maldive Islands, Indian Malabar coast, Borneo, East Indian Islands, Maluku in the Pacific, and parts of the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique. 

Cowrie often thrives on rocky coasts or under stones. The lovely little seashells are always found washed up on the beaches.

Famous Types of Cowrie Shells

A wide selection of cowrie shells is used for jewelry or ornament accessories. Roughly egg-shaped, they can grow up to 6 inches in length. The colors on the top sides of cowrie shells are white, light bluish-white or buff. And some cowrie shells have dark brown or blackish round markings on the top. 

  • White Cowrie
White cowries

Source: Pinterest

Appearance: It’s smooth and polished, more or less egg-shaped. A flat base reveals a long, slit-like hole with serrated edges. 

Inch: The lengths of certain species range from 0.2 inches to 6.3 inches for the Atlantic deer cowrie.

Region: Common in the Indo-Pacific region. It’s a shallow-water species that occurs among reefs and rocky coasts.

  • Tiger Cowrie Shell
A hand holding a tiger cowrie shell in front of the sea

Source: Etsy

Appearance:  They are heavy and large shells with flat bottoms. The color pattern appears in two layers on a white background. Bluish-gray on the bottom and reddish to dark brown on the top.  

Several spots and blobs are seen on the two layers, surrounded by a yellowish-orange tint. On rare occasions, an all-black shell is discovered.

Inch: 3 inches for the average length. The largest tiger cowrie is 6.02 inches.

  • Tiger Cowrie Purple Top
Tiger cowries purple top on the sand

Source: buy the sea online

Appearance: Well-known tiger cowrie. The shell’s brown and black spotted exterior is polished and smooth. In the lower layer of this purple cowrie shell resides purple color. 

Inch: Approximately 3 inches each tiger cowrie purple top.

Region: Indo-Pacific area and around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

  • Snake Head Cowrie Snail
Tiger cowrie shells on a glossy background

Source: Etsy

Appearance: Snakehead cowrie shell has a dark brown base and white dots on its brown top. A white or mantle line goes from front to rear along the top of the shell. 

The mantle is olive-brown, covered with irregular yellow, green, or white spots. It’s covered with frilly, branching extensions.

Inch: Small cowrie shells approximately 1 inch.

Region: Indo-Pacific eastern African Coast to Hawaii coasts. It’s the most common Hawaiian cowrie shell in the Hawaiian island chain.

History and Story of Cowrie Shell & Cowrie Shell Jewelry

Probably you’ve seen African women wearing jewelry made of little white cowrie shells. Many ladies wear them in hair or long strands wrapped around the waist and hips. 

These cowrie shells are solid and durable. For ages, they have been used as shell currency from Africa to Asia, from Oceania to Europe.  

Recently, cowrie shells have gained popularity in the Western world. As their popularity grew, people started to mass-produce the shells out of plastic.

The cowrie shell story: Hindu mythology says that during Samurad Manthan (churning of the cosmic ocean for immortality elixir), many things are (good or bad) churned out as by-products. 

During the churning, goddess Laxmi appeared from the ocean accompanied by cowrie shells. Laxmi is the deity of wealth, good fortune and beauty, so the cowrie became auspicious and holy. 

One African legend is that the cowrie shells symbolize powerful protection from Goddess. It’s abundantly used in African attire, accessories and African shell jewelry.

Cowrie Shells Meaning and Use

Cowrie Shell Meaning

Cowrie shells are not just for fashion. As we mentioned, cowrie shells used to be currency. 

According to the story of cowrie shells, the cowrie shell signifies the protective power connected to the strength and power of the ocean. 

Cowrie shells resemble the life-giving organs of females, so they own feminine energies related to fertility, birth, sexuality and menstruation. 

Cowrie Shell Use

  • Cowrie Shell Jewelry and Accessories
Wearing cowrie shell body jewelry & colored bead bracelets

Source: Pinterest

Except for using cowrie as currency, jewelry and accessories made of cowrie shells have been worn for centuries across the globe. Chieftains of the Fiji Islands wore a cowrie shell around their neck to signify rank. Tuvaluan women use cowrie in traditional handicrafts.

Because of the beneficial meaning, the cowrie shell jewelry is decorated on the bride’s attire in the old days. And cowrie jewelry continues to be a bright spark.

  • Other Uses

Decor: Lucky cowrie shell placed on a shell or glass bowel decorates the living room and invites good luck and positive effect. Cowrie shells are significant in Feng Shui as good omens to promote travel and long-distance relationships. A cowrie shell adorned near the door entrance brings prosperous energy and a stable career. 

Ritual use: Cowrie shells are used in Midewiwin rituals by the Ojibwe aboriginal people of North America. The Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba, Canada, is named after this shell.

What Do Cowrie Shells Symbolize? 

Cowrie shells that bring good luck are frequently used as jewelry, decorations, or charms. Cowrie shells are seen as symbols of womanhood, fertility, birth, and wealth in Mende culture. In China, the cowrie shell usually signifies wealth and money.

In North America, wearing cowrie shell necklaces and bracelets heals and promotes spiritual growth.

Cowrie Shell Jewelry

In this uncertain age, customers want a talisman. They tend to buy something that can bring them good luck and health. 

People are keener than ever to wear jewelry with a combination of gold, silver and cowrie shells across their necks, ears and fingers.

Gold Cowrie Shell Necklace

Wearing cowrie shell necklace with pearl and colorful bead necklaces

Source: Pinterest

Mixing things up is still on-trend, whether layering pieces or a single two-tone piece. 

A sturdy gold cowrie necklace or gold cowrie shell choker makes a statement and a fun look—the typical bright white cowrie contrast with the glittering gold. 14K gold cowrie shell necklace becomes more attractive thanks to the favorable price.  

Cowrie Earrings

Wearing gold cowrie earrings

Source: emilybelloma

One will hear the ocean when wearing the cowrie shell earrings. Dangle earrings made from cowrie shells will sway alongside the cool coastal wind. Allergic-free gold perfectly partners with cowrie shells on earrings, which won’t turn wearers’ ears green.

More than gold cowrie shell earrings, lightweight silver cowrie shell earrings are also appealing. Cowrie shell hoop earrings and cowrie stud earrings help build a glamorous look.

Cowrie Bracelet

Wearing bohemian cowrie bracelet and handmade multi-colored beaded bracelet

Source: Pinterest

No matter what people accessorize, they will never go wrong with wearing a bracelet. When it comes to the cowrie bracelets, both men and women are fans of it. Gold cowrie shell bracelets and cowrie shell bangles are the most fashionable pieces among cowrie bracelets. 

Cowrie Shell Ring 

Wearing a silver cowrie shell ring mixed with thin silver rings and a statement ring

Source: Pinterest

Gold cowrie shell rings and sterling silver cowrie shell rings are jumping to the forefront for cowrie shell rings. 

Adorning a handmade sterling silver ring or gold ring with an organic white shell makes the jewelry bold. Wearing multiple rings mixed with cowrie shell rings and metal rings builds an edgy style.   

Cowrie Shell Anklet

Wearing a cowrie shell anklet layered with a gold chain pendant anklet and two lightweight anklets

Source: Pinterest


Are cowries valuable?

Like any other natural thing, a cowrie can be valued in various ways. There’s the apparent criterion of price, which is closely linked to the beauty of cowries. 

Meyer described the most spectacular cowries as “like works of art.” It’s rumored that the most valuable cowrie ever sold for more than $50,000.

Are cowrie shells rare?

The Cowrie shell is one of the rarest and most sought-after shells. These single-shelled mollusks have a zipper-like aperture on the bottom and a rainbow of colors and patterns.

Why do Africans wear cowrie shells?

In Africa, the shells are known to bring good luck and safeguard the spirit, and many tribes employ them in spiritual rites. 

They are also symbols of femininity and fertility. African women frequently wear them not just to aid in conception but also to aid in childbirth. Cowrie shells hold the spirit of an ocean goddess, bringing good fortune and health.


Cowrie shell jewelry has always been an emotional purchase. The positive message and energy it brings make cowrie shell jewelry attractive. Except for the cowrie shell jewelry stated above, see our shell jewelry collection for more!

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