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Victorian Charm: Operculum Shell Necklace

Item 11033

Quite popular in Victorian England the operculum is also referred to as a cat’s eye shell, a snail door or as the eye of the Hindu deity Shiva. It is that part of many shelled animals which is the calcified, disc-shaped "trap door" of the shell that opens and closes to protect the animal inside from heavy surf and predators. During the very late 19th and early 20th century the shells were considered good luck and set as cabochons to be worn as protective amulets. These shells are still collected today on the beaches of Asia where they continue as charms of “bonne chance”.

It is quite a delight to come across an antique “cat’s eye” shell necklace with so many cabochons in one necklace. An even dozen (12) large and lovely examples have been set into silver rims and suspended from silver link chains creating a double tier effect. Many of the shells still retain their high polish and shimmer in the light. The inherent cabochon shape and eye-like marking made it a natural for those nature-loving Victorians.

Condition: Very good to excellent; some surfaces of the shell has crazing or tiny scratches and are less polished looking although many are fine and highly polished.

Measurements: 16-1/2 inches (42 cm) in length. Largest shells are approximately ¾ of an inch (1.9 cm) and the smallest is more than ½ of an inch (1.4 cm) in diameter. This antique necklace has a weight of 66.5 grams.

Date: Circa 1900