CYPRAEA - LARGE: 3" - 5"
Cowries are, together with cones, the most popular of all families. As a little boy, these were the smooth, glossy shells I got fascinated with and brought me into shell collecting. Today I do not concentrate in cowries, mainly because serious specimens carry serious price tags; and indeed one can easily find web pages that exhibit shells that are worth several thousands of dollars each. My collection has a few rarer ones but is mainly made out of shells I could afford! Therefore I exhibit them here as something to enjoy, not as truly exceptional rarities which they are not.
Cypraea leucodon Broderip, 1828
81.9mm. Talikud Island, Davao, Philippines.
A great rarity when I first knew about this species. Then it became more available a few years ago, thanks to compressor divers working in the Philippines. The supply seems to have stopped again. Unlike most shells that come from Balut and Nocnucan, but this one comes from Talikud: much darker, much more contrasted pattern.
Cypraea stercoraria Linnaeus, 1758
81.2mm. off Almadies, Dakar, Senegal
A most exquisite and attractive rust-colored specimen from a shipwreck is portrayed here. This species seems to always incorporate elements of its habitat into the layers of nacre that cover the dorsum. I have an algae-green specimen and a near black shell as well. A perfect, large shell, nearing the 4" mark, without an overcast is actually very uncommon.
Cypraea tigris Linnaeus, 1758
92.1mm. Zamboanga, Philippines
One of the most common cowries is also one of the most beautiful of all shells: the large and globose Tiger Cowrie. It is widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific and some populations can reach well over 5". The shell is very heavy and, porcellaneous, with fantastic blotches. It is extremely variable. Some exceptionals can be worth a fortune.
Cypraea valentia Perry, 1811
84mm. Noknokan Is. Philippines
A most attractive, large, supremely globose species, that can reach almost 4". The shell´s dorsum is colored with nice shades of gray and brown. The margins are lilac-gray with dark spots and the terminals have a toffee-swirl pattern that match beautifully. This has always been rare due to its deep water cave habitat.
Cypraea m. panerythra Melvill, 1888
78mm. Tayabas Bay, Quezon, Philippines.
A most striking, saturated dark magenta form of C. mappa; which is in its own right a very attractive species. This here seems hard to believe from the picture, one would think it is covered with plastic. Then, there are also quite a few nacre blisters and blemishes, which are unfortunately, almost inseparable from these red beauties.
Cypraea j. sherylae Raybaudi 1990
76.16mm. Point Quobba, WA. Australia
This gorgeous shell represents the most common population of Zoila jeaniana, one of the rarest and most desired australian cowries. This particular specimen is extremely large for this form. It has a dark chocolate base and beautiful chocolate and caramel speckled dorsum on light powder blue background. A really breathtaking species.