A Brief History of Cowrie Shells: A Journey Through African History and Zigleys’ Newest Collection

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Cowrie shells are more than just beautiful objects; they are symbols deeply rooted in African history and culture. With its smooth, glossy texture and unique shape, the cowrie shell has captivated the human imagination for millennia. Originating from the Indian Ocean, these shells made their way to Africa through trade routes, becoming an integral part of various African cultures. At Zigleys, we believe that understanding the story behind each piece of jewelry enriches the experience of wearing it. That’s why we’re excited to talk about our new Cowrie Shell Line—a tribute to a legacy that transcends time and borders. Before you explore this unique collection, let’s journey through the captivating history of cowrie shells in Africa.

The Historical Significance of Cowrie Shells

Cowrie Shells as Currency

Long before the introduction of paper money and coins, cowrie shells served as a form of currency in many African societies. Their durability, scarcity, and attractiveness made them ideal for use in trade. They were a standard measure of value, used to buy goods ranging from food to livestock and even land.

Spiritual and Ritualistic Importance

In African spirituality, cowrie shells are more than just ornamental; they are sacred objects used in rituals and ceremonies. In some traditions, they are used for divination—a practice of seeking knowledge and guidance from a higher spiritual power. The shells are cast on a board, and their positions are interpreted by spiritual leaders to provide insights into the future.

Symbolism in Art and Fashion

Cowrie shells have been used in African art and fashion for generations. They are often sewn into clothing or incorporated into elaborate hairstyles as symbols of status, beauty, and cultural identity. You can find cowrie shells sewn or adhered to crowns and thrones worn by African royalty. In some communities, cowrie shells are gifted to young women as a rite of passage, symbolizing their transition into adulthood.

The Cowrie Shell in Modern Times

While cowrie shells no longer serve as currency, their cultural and symbolic significance endures. They are still used in spiritual practices and continue to be a popular element in African fashion and art. The modern diaspora has also embraced cowrie shells as a symbol of African heritage, often wearing them as jewelry to connect with their roots.

Zigleys’ New Cowrie Shell Line: A Tribute to Heritage

Craftsmanship Meets Tradition

Our new Cowrie Shell line is a tribute to African history. Each piece is crafted with meticulous attention to detail, honoring the traditional uses of cowrie shells while elevating them through modern design techniques. All of our pieces use real, hand-selected cowrie shells that have been ethically sourced. That means the piece (or pieces) you receive will be one-of-a-kind. Our solid gold Cowrie Shell design (the Cowrie Gold) was made by scanning a hand-selected cowrie shell, making a mold, and casting it in solid 18-karat gold. In this case, tradition meets ultimate luxury.

An Invitation to Connect

Wearing a piece from our Cowrie Shell Line is an invitation to connect with a legacy that spans continents and generations. It’s an opportunity to celebrate your heritage and be part of a story that began long before us and will continue long after.

Why Own a Piece from Zigleys’ Cowrie Shell Line?

A Connection to Roots

In a world that often feels disconnected, owning a piece from this collection is a way to reconnect with your roots. It serves as a tangible link to a rich cultural history that you can carry with you wherever you go.

A Conversation Starter

Each piece is not just a beautiful accessory but also a conversation starter—an opportunity to educate others about the significance of cowrie shells in African culture. It’s a way to share a story that deserves to be told and celebrated.

A Legacy Preserved

By owning a piece from our Cowrie Shell Line, you’re contributing to the preservation of a legacy. You’re ensuring that the story of cowrie shells—of their historical, spiritual, and cultural significance—continues to be told and cherished by future generations. Like 18-karat gold, cowrie shells are known for their durability and longevity. That means your piece will remain a precious part of your collection for years to come and be passed down for generations while still remaining as beautiful as the day you bought it.


Our Cowrie Shell Line is more than just jewelry; it’s a celebration of a rich and diverse history. It’s an homage to the generations that came before us and a gift to the generations that will follow. We invite you to be a part of this journey—to wear your heritage proudly, to share its story passionately, and to preserve its legacy diligently. Explore the collection.