A group of snails that develop rounded, compact, short spired shells, with flaring, strongly toothed appertures; some species get quite large and heavy; hence the common name of helmets and bonnets. There are members in this group that develop extremely beautiful shells.
When live, these animals live in sand, and feed on sea urchins.
Cassis flammea Linnaeus, 1758
113.7mm. Cartagena, Colombia.
A medium-sized species, when compared to other Caribbean helmets. This species is also less dramatically lipped. However the surface of the dorsum is special within its genus: it is of a very thick porcelaineous material, which is attractively knobbed and highly polished, like a chunk of fine wood.
The ddepicted shell came from an octopus barrow.
Cypraecassis rufa Linnaeus, 1758
155.8mm. Zamboanga, Philippines.
The bullmouth helmet; the original cameo shell, and usually caught in great numbers in the East African coast, where it seems to be more common. Pictured here is an absolutely superb piece. The dorsum is so dark it looks almost purple, contrasting strongly with the bright vermillion apperture. Philippine shells are uncommon an one like this is exceptional.
Cypraecassis testiculus Linnaeus, 1758
49.1mm. Islas del Rosario, Colombia.
The Caribbean counterpart to the Bullmouth Helmet: A cute little shell, much less massive and impressive, nontheless, it can develop quite an attractive shell, even with strong parietal shield and good color. Pictured here is a shell that I found fresh dead near the beach; I have to say, a really nice find! The form is compact and the lip thick and colorful.
Phalium areola Linnaeus, 1758
76mm. Camplong, Madura, East Java, Indonesia.
A common and wide-spread, yet absolutely gorgeous shell. The species has a few forms throughout its wide range. Pictured here is a shell from East Java, Indonesia that I found particularly stunning because of its baby-blue dorsum covered by a perfectly drawn, dark brown tessellate pattern. In my opinion this is one of the most beautiful of all seashells.
Phalium fimbriata Gmelin, 1791
83.6mm. Norte Memba, North Mozambique.
A very uncommon, elegant species; from the East and North Indian Ocean. These shells can easily exceed 4", they have a very pointy spire and the dorsum is framed between two thick checkered margins. The color scheme is similar to that of Phalium bandatum, and the shoulder is crowned with sharp, closely-spaced spikes.
Phalium flammiferum Röding, 1798
72.7mm. East China Sea.
A commonly trawled species, this is for me the most beautiful bonnet: The shell´s surface is extremely smooth and adorned with perfectly outlined, burnt orange streaks on a warm grey base. The lip is thick and indentated, solid white with bright orange bands. There is nothing exceptional about the shell pictured here, yet it is so perfect it looks artificial.