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 in the 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 armeniaca Verco, 1912
87.2mm. Great Australian Bight, South Australia.
I feel that this is the species that should be called aurantium, because it is painted in shades of bright yellow and gold. The depicted specimen has an unusually dark apricot base, which makes it a standout piece. Shells with this strong color are usually called form westralica Raybaudi, 1980. The shell can attain 4"+. It is in my opinion, one of the most beautiful shells.
Cypraea aurantium Gmelin, 1791
94.8mm. Albay Gulf, Philippines.
The "Golden Cowrie" a species so beautiful, I felt it would be a sin to leave it out of this selection, even if a specimen like the one portrayed is fairly unremarkable today, in fact it is average sized and not gem. A shell like this would only be considered a rarity many decades ago, before the Filippinos started flooding the market. Nowadays this is a very affordable shell.
Cypraea friendii Gray, 1831
77.1mm. Geographe Bay. Australia.
C. friendii is a large and gorgeous australian endemic, with several named forms and subspecies. Pictured here is the "Busselton Blue", it displays the typical characteristics of this form: The shell is an adult dwarf with really stunning, baby-blue embryonic pattern. This particular shell has orange-brown terminals, which contrast beautifully with the dorsal color.
Cypraea mauritiana Linnaeus, 1758
98.6mm. Davao Bay. Philippines.
A very large, heavy cowrie. Characterized by its unique shape: Very round body, humped back and flattened, even concave base, with thick, edged margins. Perfect shells display a very dark brown base and marginal color. The dorsum is covered with uneaven "windows" that show a much lighter orangish color beneath.
Cypraea argus Linnaeus, 1758
93mm. Rameswaram. India.
This is a large species, that is widespread in the Indo-Pacific, and has several named forms. The large, nearly 4" shell is subtly banded in beige and warm tones of gray. Distributed randomly, but without overlapping, there are large burnt-sienna O´s. These can vary in size and consistency from shell to shell. The beauty of this simple design is just stunning
Cypraea testudinaria Linnaeus, 1758
130.3mm. Palawan Is. Philippines.
One of the largest cowries. Depicted here is a 5"+ giant, a size which is not rarely attained by the cylindrical shell. This species is underrated in terms of beauty. The markings are somewhat random blotches of dark brown over beige. Large, dark specimens; overlaid with the fine sand-like white dots, have a beauty comparable to that of a hawksbill turtle´s shell.