Iris Payne-Mack of Greatminz Accessories loves, loves, cowrie shells. These decorative shells are what makes her jewelry selection distinctly unique.
Found in the islands of the Indian Ocean, cowries are beautiful egg-shaped shells belonging to sea mollusks of the genus Cypraea. There are over 250 known species living in warm sea areas. Most cowrie shells are smooth, shiny, and oval-shaped with a center slit. Almost all of these shells are considered lovely because of the very shiny surface that has been compared to the sheen of porcelain.
Imagine paying for your goods/services with...shells.
The cowrie (aka "cowry") shell of Africa has been the most popular, and abundant historical currency on the continent since being introduced from the East/Middle East. During early colonial times, many Africans preferred being paid with cowrie shells over gold coins. The ever popular cowrie shell has had many uses and meanings. North and West African tribes often produced sacks of cowries as a dowry or bride-price. (For parents today it would be cheaper than paying for a wedding, and kick the Bridezilla drama to the curb.) Specifically, for many West African cultures, the presence of cowrie shells indicates fertility. A regular practice within countries such as Gambia is the threading of cowrie shells onto a bin-bin, a waistband worn around a woman's hip for the purpose of increasing fertility. (Guaranteed pregnancy in a belt. Hmm...if only becoming prego was that easy!) In other countries, it was believed that the shell protected against the evil eye. Cowrie shells were also used in making jewelry, to embellish clothing, decorate drums/headdresses, design ritual masks/furniture, for games, and in computation.
Today, just as centuries ago, cowrie shells are featured in a number of African crafts. African masks, sculptures, jewelry, boxes, clothing and other artifacts are often adorned with cowrie shells of varying sizes. Just as this soft leather sash belt is beautifully adorned with cowrie shells 4 leaf clover style.
To see more decorative pieces by Greatminz Accessories go visit the website @ www.tee-iabodesigns.com in the jewelry section. Peace & Blessings♥