Les carapaces de tortues

The shells of sea turtles has been used as a fine material to be cut and bent and decorated for centuries all over the world. Originating in the warm tropical seas of Africa and the Pacific, it made its way to Europe and the New World in the shape of spectacles, combs and delightful objects, often paired with silver, and sometimes precious stones and pearls.  In the last few decades, whole shells have taken their place in interiors with stunning effect.

Utilitarian objects

Jewelry and adornments
Bent and cut into bracelets and necklaces

Finely carved as here in Doris Duke's comb collection

adorned with pearls as in this Victorian comb and "tiara"

a smiling/menacing tortoise mask

Tortoise shells as art
on walls

on stands

Breathtakingly en masse at the Tides Hotel in Miami designed by Kelly Weastler

As sea turtles are protected, current designers resort to faux tortoise shell plastic and other imitation materials.

Faux turtoise shell

Alexander Mcqueen's fun clutch

Albert hadley's cupboard

And this faux turtoise coffee table I shot at the Lee Jofa showroom yesterday with my cell phone (it shows)

And if you are totally against the idea of tortoise shell altogether you have options
Faux faux turtoise shell
Jonathan Adler's interpretation in white china.
images saffronia baldwin, house beautiful, brian douglas, o gallerie, shopmania, stylehive, this next, quai branly, blue velvet vintage, the man of style, house and home, beverly hills honeys, the lennoxx

au revoir.


  1. Such a favorite of mine. Beautiful post.
    Mary Ann

  2. Thank you for this post. One of my favorite rooms has tortoise shells (I think) on the wall, and I always wondered what they were. you have such a keen eye beautiful things.

  3. Forgot to put in a link to my favorite room.

  4. Quel bonheur ces photos. Merci .

  5. Thank goodness for faux!
    It breaks my heart to know that these beautiful creatures had their lives shortened for someone's selfish, selfish pleasures! Gah!

  6. I'm a fan of the faux turtle (especially the back of that bookcase! amazing!) but I don't think I could ever get behind using pieces of real turtles to decorate. They're too damned cute. :-\

  7. I know that using any part of any animal as a decorative medium is considered not something to be proud of in some minds. I used to have a tortoise shell which I found on the beach in Somalia years ago. The turtle died and its shell washed ashore like a number of others on that beach over the years. I also believe that you cannot rewrite history and that antique pieces were made at a time when conservation was not on anyone's mind. This does not mean that we should carry on destroying wild life for selfish and vain purposes. I totally agree. A lot is being done to protect sea life and I am very encouraged by it. However my post was about the beauty of tortoise shells . I apologize if it seems that I condone endangering animals. I don't. I do not own any animal skin or horn or head. I eat meat and eggs and wear leather shoes and bags, however. I do not own a fur coat. That does not make me a protector of animals but I don't think it makes me a killer of endangered species. I am with you Divine Theatre and Melissa as I believe all animals are cute. I do and will always protect animals wild or domestic, but I have not come to a place in my life where I can give up "incorporating" animals all together. The debate is still on in my mind. Thank you for bringing up that aspect of the subject.

  8. beautiful post, thank you ;)