If you’ve ever been to a country in Africa, you’ve probably seen women wearing jewelry made of cowrie shells. The small white shell looks porcelain. It’s strong and durable, which is why for centuries, cowrie shells were used as a currency in many parts of the world. From Africa to Asia, Oceania and in scattered places throughout Europe, the shells were “the most commonly used means of payment of the trading nations of the Old World (source).”
Growing up in Senegal, I always had jewelry made with cowrie shells, whether it was bracelets, anklets or earrings. Many women wear them in their hair or in long strands around their waist and hips. If I’m being honest, I never really thought much about it, but I knew they brought good luck. I also knew that my mom would (and still does) chastise me when I’m not wearing something made with the shells.
Like many African countries, Senegal is a spiritual place. There, the shells are known to bring good luck and to protect the spirit of the wearer, and many tribes use them in spiritual ceremonies. They also are a sign of femininity and fertility, with women often wearing them not only to help them conceive, but to help them give birth safely. Cowrie shells have the energy of an ocean goddess, bringing prosperity and good health. Even today, I feel a positive energy when wearing cowrie shells. I love the historical, cultural and spiritual feelings the shells invoke. They are a beautiful part of Senegalese culture.
Cowrie shells have become popular in the Western world in recent years. As their popularity has grown, people have started producing the shells in mass quantities, often from plastic, and shipping them here. We say no to that. We work diligently to ensure cowrie shells in our jewelry are real authentic and Senegalese (and made by Senegalese hands). We want the shells to give you all the positive female goddess energy they’ve been giving to women in Senegal for centuries. Go on and let your inner goddess shine!