Cat's Eye shells -- each one the operculum or foot-closure of a sea-snail called a Turban Shell or Turbo -- are widely used in Europe and the Middle East for protection against the evil eye, no doubt because they themselves resemble eyes. Two species are shown here, a dull reddish-brown one at upper left and a shiny greenish one at lower right. They vary from 5/8" to 7/8" in size. Both species shown are used as protective charms.
During the Victorian era, cat's eye shells were made into jewelry which was worn to ward off the evil eye. Because the shells have a natural cabochon shape, they were easily set into silver or gold rings or brooches. I have also seen a necklace pendant made of two cat's eye shells placed back-to-back within a silver bezel and a bracelet made of six of them set as cabochons between fancy silver links. Such jewelry was especially popular among sea-trading people like the British. It is likely that most of the cat's eye jewelry of this era was made by or for sailors and given as gifts to female relatives and lovers. Victorian cat's eye jewelry is highly collectible and priced accordingly.
In America, cat's eye shells are commonly found in African-American mojo bags prepared for protection from evil, for uncrossing, and to break a jinx. This probably derives from their use in European folk-magic and is not the remnant of a central African custom, since the evil eye belief itself -- and thus the use of eye-charms to repel the evil eye -- is Middle-Eastern in origin and spread from there to India and to Europe. Cultural appropriation being what it is, however, cat's eye shells are a regular component of hoodoo practice and have been for at least a couple of centuries.
A zoological footnote:
Regarding the two species of cat's eye shells shown on this page,
Paul Monfils (PMonfils@Lifespan.org) has supplied the following information:
The reddish, textured one is from the Gold-Mouth Turban Shell,
Turbo chrysostomus. The glossy green one is from the Tapestry Turban,
Turbo petholatus. Both species are widely distributed through the
tropical and sub-tropical western Pacific, but the usual source of
commercially imported shells (and opercula) is the Philippines.
Regarding the two species of cat's eye shells shown on this page, Paul Monfils (PMonfils@Lifespan.org) has supplied the following information:
The reddish, textured one is from the Gold-Mouth Turban Shell, Turbo chrysostomus. The glossy green one is from the Tapestry Turban, Turbo petholatus. Both species are widely distributed through the tropical and sub-tropical western Pacific, but the usual source of commercially imported shells (and opercula) is the Philippines.
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