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She Sells Cowrie Seashells by the Sea Shore

written by Morgan Watkins

In the cold winter months ahead, it’s safe to say that we could all use a little bit of 
warmth and sunshine in our fashion lives. But how do you incorporate the spirit of the sea into an everyday look? Accessorize with cowrie seashells! Along with being sleek and chic, these natural, nautical pieces carry with them great symbolism and history. Keep on reading to get the low down on cowrie shell accessories.

Most commonly found on continents and islands of the Indian Ocean, cowrie shells were utilized by many as currency. Holding monetary value in ancient Asia, Africa, Oceania and even North America, these shells could be used to acquire necessities and goods such as clothing and food. During the height of the West African slave trade, slave owners could buy slaves with this currency.


Sea Shells Jewelry


Juxtaposing the sinister trade going on in Africa during the 17th century and beyond is the beautiful meaning within the cowrie shell. African cultures associated these smooth shells with the Goddess of protection, as well as the strength of the ocean. In fact, it is believed that those who are attracted to the cowrie shell are actually descendents of ocean spirits. These shells also symbolized destiny and prosperity, as they were worn on the hips of both African women and the women of Ancient Egypt to increase female fertility. These girdles could be worn during labor as well as a way to promote a safe delivery. Even when analyzing the shape of the cowrie shell, one could make the distinct connection of the shell’s shape to the shape of a pregnant woman’s belly.

Along with encouraging prosperous fertility among women, these shells could be utilized to provide protection for women and children from evil spirits. The dead even adore the cowrie shell, as they have been found worn by corpses in Ancient Egyptian and African tombs in the form of simple bracelets and necklaces. It is said that they can continue to protect the dead as their spirits leave the physical world.


Sea Shells Body Jewelry Vintage Accessories

(Image from https://everythingsoulful.com/symbolism-the-cowrie-shell/)

On a less spiritual note, cowrie shells could be used in a myriad of other ways, like to add a hint of beachy flair to an outfit. To increase their value in jewelry pieces, silver and gold can be added inside and around the shell for a pop of shimmer and shine. When paired with bohemian styles like fringe boots, woven anklets and nautical neckwear, these shells embody the free spirited nature of the ocean.



Whether wearing these shells as a means of protection or fertility, or simply to add easy breezy beach vibes to your look, wearing cowrie shells are an effortless way to reconnect with the ocean no matter how far off the coast you may be. Want to shop some of our best bohemian pieces? Head over to talkingfashion.net to peruse our stylish shell accessories!



“Cowry Shell Necklace.” The Smithsonian: The National Museum of American History, http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1066631.

Prieto, Anayeli. “Cowrie Shells In Ancient Egypt: From Money To Motherhood.” StMU History Media, 28 Mar. 2017, https://www.stmuhistorymedia.org/crowie-shells-from-money-to-motherhood/.

“SYMBOLISM: THE COWRIE SHELL.” Everything Soulful , 22 Mar. 2016, https://everythingsoulful.com/symbolism-the-cowrie-shell/.


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