A late 19th century "blonde" turtle shell, on a lamp mounted stand

A late 19th century "blonde" turtle shell, on a lamp mounted stand


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A stunning late 19th Century “blond” turtle shell. These turtle shells were South American river turtles and would be captured to take on board the merchant ships of the 19th century. The turtles were then boiled (to make turtle soup) and eaten, with one turtle capable of feeding reputedly up to 100 sailors. However, the left overs were not simply thrown overboard. Often a sailor would take the shell and polish it by hand for hours on end giving it a gloss-white finish and sell it as an item of curiosity for a few shillings once docked at home which explains why most of them tend to turn up for sale in the northwest of England in the proximity of Liverpool, one of the busiest trading ports of the world at the time.

Today these make for wonderful conversation pieces, appealing to interior designers, collectors of natural history and maritime antiques. This particular example has been mounted on a stand which can be lit to give the turtle shell a wonderful and warm halo effect.

Scientific name: Podocnemis Expansa, listed CITES Appendix II, Annex A (exempt). As this specimen is pre-1947 no article 10 is required.

Condition: superb white glossy patination with only a couple of natural flaws

Dimensions: X cm high, (X cm high including stand), X cm wide, X cm deep