Body ornaments; clam shell, tortoise shell

Kapkap, 19th century

Unknown artist, expand_more
Not on Viewexpand_more

The brown, lace-like discs attached to the white clam shells of these ornaments are made of tortoiseshell. When boiled, tortoiseshell becomes pliable and can be cut into patterns. The marble-like shell of the giant clam is a technically challenging medium, nearly as hard as stone. The art of working it reached a peak on the Solomon Islands in Oceania. The ornaments, called kapkap, were used as exchange goods throughout the region, and are still worn today at festivals, signifying personal wealth and status.

3 5/8 in. (9.21 cm)
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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Body ornaments; clam shell, tortoise shell