Tortoise Shell Necklace

Dear Erhard, I am very curious about your tortoise shell necklace.
I recently have had a client come to me with a grand scheme for a
comissioned piece. He is looking for a stunning sterling necklace
that would replicate the way a tortoise’s shell plates fit together.
He was interested in the piece looking solid but actually being
flexible, (hinges?), and he wanted a realistic surface treament. In
addition, the ideal vision would include real tortoise shell set into
the necklace. I have never seen jewelry with tortoise shell and I am
wondering if it is endangered and/or illegal. Where is your necklace
from? Do you know where I can get some tortoise shell - preferably
precut into managable shapes? I very much would like to land this
fat commission. Any is very helpful, and I would be more
than happy to hear if anyone has any suggestions on how to create the
necklace. Thanks in advance.


anastsia - yes, tortoise shell items are on the customs’ no-no list.
some of the qualifications that apply to ivory also pertain to
tortoise shell. ive

AnastasiA, In the US, Toroise shell is illegal.You may be able to find
some pieces in old jewellery or combs at antique stores
etc.However,you may be taking a risk selling a piece containing
recycled tortoise shell.I believe that it is endangered.
Susan (@Susan_Hoge)

I was under the impression that Tortise anything is now illegal, my
husband has a pair of turtle cowboy boots and cannot wear them into
Mexico because when he comes back our Customs will take them away from
him and he will come hom barefoot.

The same with Elephant Skin Boots…another no-no…

So as far as I know - Endangered Elephant Turtle


I am not an animal rights advocate or anything ,but I would seriously
consider NOT using tortoise shell for any jewelry. It is illegal to
harvest or sell tortoise shell in the US unless it falls inder the
category of Antique merchandise. There are so many other choices for
jewelry that it seems a poor choice to use an animal’s shell just for
a fat commission.

Andrea Streicher

Hello, I am sure tortoise shell use is a protected item somewhere but
I am not politically correct, living abroad changes the way people
see things. We start to believe humans are more important than
animals in most cases. So if you can afford it you can fly to Saigon
and buy all you want. Jewelry, eye glass frames, and I am sure sheets
also. There are several stores and one large one especially has good
designs. I will get an address card next time I walk by the shop.
Please don’t send a bunch of angry letters Re: save the animal ideas
folks. Keep your own views and I’ll keep mine. Art comes first for me.

Sharron in sunny Saigon

Anastasia, Tortoise Shell is extracted, not from the land tortoise
with which we are all familiar, but from the Hawksbill Sea Turtle.
Hawksbill Turtles are among the most endangered creatures on the
planet. You don’t want to know the dollar amount of the fine for
trading in this material. Suffice it to say that it would be a very
bad idea to buy or sell any genuine Tortoise Shell in a newly
fabricated piece.

The good news is that Tortoise Shell has been realistically simulated
for decades with Celluloid plastic. The best source for this
material is a Luthier’s supply catalogue, such as Stewart MacDonald.
They have a web site. I believe that a 1/8" thick sheet of 10"x20"
Tortoise Shell Celluloid (used to replace damaged pickguards on
vintage guitars) costs about $47. It looks entirely realistic - and
allows our few remaining sea turtles to swim free. Not a bad deal for
either species! :slight_smile:

Hope this helps,

No flames on the preservation issue, but I would point out that
purchasing the material isn’t the hard part – shipping either the
raw material or the finished product into the US carries federal
penalties. No thanks! Shawn

This is slightly off the topic of the thread, but I have a question
someone may be able to answer for me.

I have a long, old string of tortoise shell beads, about 10 mm in
diameter. I wore them often. They were extremely beautiful, with the
characteristic variety of color. They had a lovely glow, and when
you looked into them, you felt you were looking below the surface.

They needed to be restrung, and I took them to a local bead shop who
promised to do a good job. (They didn’t). When I got them back they
were extremely dull, no glow, no depth of view, boring. I infer
that these idiots washed them in ammonia and strong detergent (although
I had stressed that they were real tortoise shell and rather
delicate.) Looking back, I think they had no idea that tortoise
shell is rare, and probably failed to notice their subtle beauty. I
was so upset I didn’t return to the shop for years. Does anyone know
how I should treat them to try to get back some semblance of their
former beauty? Beeswax, anything??

Dian Deevey

Hi All, On the subject of Tortise Shell, I have a box full of
fossilized tortise shell found here in North Central Florida, I was
thinking of making up some pieces with it…is this sort of thing
illegal? Regards Susan Chastain

It would seem that the best way to polish protein like Tortoise shell
is probably the same way you would polish your fingernails the
natural way. Use a “test” bead and try a natural fingernail buffing
compound. It should work.

Andrea Streicher

    Hello, I am sure tortoise shell use is a protected item
somewhere but Keep your own views and I'll keep mine. Art comes
first for me 

Dear Sharron, I’ve always considered art as food for the soul and I
think it is just as important as food for the body. But, just as
always eating the same dish for every meal would become boring after
the first couple of years, so would experiencing the same type of art
over and over again become boring. Human bodies cannot live by bread
alone, they need a few veggies and chocolate in that mix. By the same
token, human souls cannot live by jewelry alone, they need painting
and dancing and beauty around them. If we don’t worry about the
flowers and the animals now, the future is going to be pretty boring.
Art does not come first for anyone, even you. Inspiration comes
first. And it is not easy to get inspired if you are bored. Martha
from Long Island

susan - as another central floridian with a lot of those fossilized
shell sections collected from streams & rivers here, i think they
might make up into something nice if you grind down the usually thick
sections from the back & treat them like ammonite in settings - good
luck - ive

    On the subject of Tortise Shell,  I have a box full of
fossilized tortise shell found here in North Central Florida,  I
was thinking of making up some pieces with this sort of
thing illegal?  

No. Just like fossilized walrus and mastodon ivory, legally
collected fossilized material is exempted from the prohibition of the
Wildlife Conservation Act. Shawn

I polish black coral and all sorts of protein based items with ZAM
(also very good for turquois and other soft stones). You can get it
from Rio or any jewelry equipment supplier. Use only a sewn cotton
muslin buff and load it well with ZAM. Be careful not to hold it
against the buff too long or it will “burn” it. Cheers, Don at The
Charles Belle Studio where simple elegance IS fine jewelry.

Dian, Consider acrylic polish, I made a mistake with amber once, and
this worked. use a clean cotton buffand go easy, heat produced could
blur it up again. Becky

Dear Martha, Yes,you are right, I guess I sometimes forget because I
am constantly seeing children whose parents are selling them into
slavery and worse and being regularly harrassed on the streets for
money for food and my mind still feels humans come first. Actally
plants and birds and animals are the only thing which makes daily
life beautiful here BUT if I didn’t have Art I couldn’t stand the
brutality and uglyness and evilness I see humans do to each other. I
still believe humans come first even if it means something else is
lost. This morning in my classroom I and my students overheard the
screams of a pig being killed…slowly as that makes it more
delicate. So we decided to turn the music up to try and drown the
sorrowful sound out. It was a classical piece which reminded me that
humans have many sides to them, even while causing pain we create and
develop beauty. Its not ‘right’ and I always wish we could be
emotionally higher developed…BUT WE ARE NOT… thats the facts.

So thanks for your kind and unjudgmental reply.

Be happy, Sharron –

Hello Dian, When tortoise shell becomes dull,. either from age or
from harsh chemicals. the original gloss can be restored by buffing on
a polishing machine. Use a compound such as tripoli or bobbing
compound. The improvement will be quite dramatic. Have fun. Tom Arnold

This email comes from Germany.That’s the country where I live due to
my profesion.Making jewelry is one of my hobbys,but it’s my number
one passion.I don’t wanted to act as a hypocrite,but if we don’t show
respect to nature,nature will not show respect to human kind.Whatever
we “GET” from this free source,we should respect it whitout wasting
it.The big benefit of your big beautyful America is the diversity of
minerals you have.My favorite stone is opal and a organic stone
called Ammolite which is found in the soutern part of Canada
(Lethbridge).This doesn’t mean that I don’t like other stone.I’ve
learned from experience that diversity of nature is our biggest
advantage on our “UNIQUE” planet called earth.If you get stuck by
just one mineral-for example tortoise shell-,what would you do if
this source runs dry?Stop with this hobby and find something else to
do?start with a new mineral untill that one distinquishes?My opinion
about making jewelry is creating one of a kind pieces using rough and
turn this rough into a atractive item.Spread out your view and find
other beautiful minerals to work with our to combine with tortoise
shell.I hope that my point of view did not turned into a preech,but
ones in a while turn on your TV and watch howmutch specimens are
distroyed by mankind,and eatchtime we say:“We have plenty of it,don’t
wurry about it”.Thanks for taking the time to read this and enjoy
what you do with the necessary respect to every mineral we use and
for our misused planet. Pedro

First I would rinse them in water, preferably distilled to remove as
much chemical from the surface as possible. You need to penetrate
the surface of the shell and the best substance I know is light
mineral oil. This is not the same as common heavy mineral oil which
is more viscous and will just sit on the surface for a long time and
be greasy. You can dip the tortoise in a dish of light mineral oil,
let it sit for a day and then blot off the excess with paper towels.
This should help, although it might take several weeks to months as
the light mineral oil both penetrates deeper and dries from the