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Article: Tortoiseshell


Uses and Applications of Tortoiseshell

  • Tortoiseshell was widely used in ancient times in the North and in Asia.
  • It was used in the manufacture of combs, small boxes, frames, and inlays in furniture.
  • Tortoiseshell was also used for spectacles, guitar picks, and knitting needles.
  • Manufacturers and consumers were attracted to its beautiful appearance, durability, and warmth against the skin.
  • Craftsmen in various Asian countries have perfected the art of working with tortoiseshell.

Availability and Substitutes for Tortoiseshell

  • In 1973, the trade of tortoiseshell worldwide was banned under CITES.
  • The material was often imitated using stained horn and plastic-like cellulose acetate.
  • Synthetic substitutes for tortoiseshell, such as Delrin, have been used for guitar picks.
  • Brands like Tortoloid and Tor-tis offer synthetic alternatives to tortoiseshell.
  • These substitutes provide similar aesthetics without harming endangered species.

Historical Significance of Tortoiseshell

  • Tortoiseshell has been used since ancient times, including in the construction of the ancient Greek lyre.
  • Wealthy ancient Romans favored inlaid veneers of tortoiseshell for furniture and small items.
  • The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea distinguished between different species of tortoiseshell, with hawksbill being highly regarded.
  • André Charles Boulle introduced marquetry combining thin inlays of tortoiseshell with wood and metal, a style known as Boulle work.
  • Piqué work, the inlay of precious metals and jewels into tortoiseshell, was popular for luxury objects.

Additional Notes and References

  • Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tortoiseshell.
  • A 2001 article highlighted the threat to Japanese tradition due to the tortoiseshell ban.
  • The book 'Corso di Scienze Naturali a uso delle Scuole Complementari' provides information on tortoiseshell.
  • CITES website mentions multilateral agreements for the conservation of hawksbill turtles, a source of tortoiseshell.
  • An article in the New York Times discusses the deterioration of cultural treasures made of plastic, including tortoiseshell items.
  • Lionel Casson's article 'Periplus Maris Erythraei: Notes on the Text' provides insights into tortoiseshell.
  • The book 'Lécaille [Tortoiseshell]' by Lison de Caunes and Jacques Morabito explores the subject in detail.

Tortoiseshell Data Sources

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