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Orfaley Cowrie Shell & Silver Turtle Brooch

In Costume Jewelry > Costume Brooches > Show & Tell and Animals > Show & Tell.
cameosleuth's items4 of 15Art Deco Bracelet, Brass, Glass & Enamel, Part IDeco Pan, French Silver, with Black & Colorless Paste Decoration
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    Posted 5 years ago

    (15 items)

    The waters surrounding the Philippine Islands are the source of many of the beautiful shells found in collections and incorporated into decorative items, including ones for personal adornment. Although his family moved to Argentina when he was very young, and he later moved to New York City, Naef Orfaley shows his love of his natal country in his inventive and whimsical animal figures inspired by those tropical shells

    In this case, a leopard cowrie makes a perfect carapace for a bejewelled turtle. In checking on line for other examples of Orfaley's work, see that he did not seem to mark metal content unless a piece used 18K gold; all pieces are represented as silver, even though not marked as such.

    By comparison with other pieces priced in the thousands of dollars, this is a relatively bargain basement item. The large 'gem' is certainly glass; the eyes appear to be small cabochons of lapis lazuli. I have not had it tested in any way, so am assuming the gold rope trim is gold filled or vermeil. I no longer remember how much I paid for my turtle on eBay, almost certainly less than $100.

    At 75 mm nose to tail, & approx. 35 mm from plastron to the top of the blue stone, this is a brooch only in recognition of the pin assembly attached. It sits quite well & lives at my house as an objet de vertu.

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    1. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      As someone who collected shells long before she knew what a cameo was, & who has 2 turtles in her bathtub, I love it too. Wonder if it is not relatively early work, as he did some very elaborate, expensive, things, e.g.: This seller has a 2 more in other items.
    2. kyratango kyratango, 5 years ago
      Woohh... A cutie, and a bargain :-)) I love turtles too!
    3. lentilka11, 5 years ago
      what a lovely piece!!
    4. lentilka11, 5 years ago
      This is so beautiful!
    5. Steptoe1 Steptoe1, 5 years ago
      Very nice work ,luv it
    6. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      Thanks everybody for all the love expressed through votes & comments. Specially for lentilka:
    7. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      I think that's my favorite too, because he made such good use of the natural shapes of the shells. I also have a collection of Zuni carvings (I don't feel I have the right to call them fetishes since I have them as art, not for religious purposes) & among them are many rams, because they make such a great sculptural subject. Never see any jewelry or art I would want inspired by Libra. We are known for coveting beautiful things.
    8. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      Just realized there are 2 rams. If you can't have this one

      maybe the one I like:

      Can't figure out what this one is:
    9. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      More turtles:

      This one uses an ostrich egg:
    10. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      Glad you are enjoying it. Let us know if you find something that adds to our knowledge. When I checked, this was the only Orfaley piece on CW.
    11. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      The nonchalant ram is indeed lovely. Particularly like the way he used a very thin cross section of nautilus shell trimmed in golden roping for the curled horn.

      As for the whatsis in the eBay listing, I can see they say it's a bird, & I see what could be a single 3-toed foot clutching a broken green stone that could be a branch or a perch. After that it loses me. If the head is turned forward toward the viewer, it does not look like any bird I have ever seen. If I look at the apex of the scallop shell as the beak, lapis cabochons just above as eyes, I can see it as a crested bird, but only if the head is turned all they way around to look backward. Birds can do this, so maybe that was the intent. Seller seems not to realize the white belly is also shell & does not note the damaged stone.

      Not Orfaley's most successful piece. Of the pieces I have seen, the one I would consider next to least successful is also a bird as seen from below, with a cowrie shell belly & a scallop shell head facing forward. But it is at least recognizably a bird. It has silver tail feathers; this other one does not seem to have lost anything from that end. Well, can't expect them all to be masterpieces, particularly not the ones that turn up on eBay.
    12. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      He is certainly as well made as any other Orfaley piece, although simpler in design than some. But 'bargain basement' was more a comment on what I paid for him, not remotely near what sellers are asking now.

      I am a member of the New York Turtle & Tortoise Society ( We have an annual judged show among ourselves. I have only exhibited a few times, but one of the times I did, I attached this guy to the strap of a tote bag; he was very much admired. And these are connoisseurs of all things chelonian.
    13. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      Hi again. Read comments out of order. Thank you Crystal for your love & enthusiasm. Who knows? Perhaps sometime you'll come across another piece going for a bargain basement price because the seller did not do research & you will know just what it is. Fingers crossed it's a ram. :)
    14. cameosleuth cameosleuth, 5 years ago
      Found a photo of the other bird, which was on eBay at the same time I bought the turtle. Considered it, but did not like it well enough & could not see it as a letter opener. Maybe it was, since he made so many others.

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