By Alex Scott
Of the more than 100,000 known species of shells, one of the most rare and the most valuable is Conus goriamaris, the glory of the sea cone shell. Like many cone shells, this large, slender cone shell is found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Fine, chestnut heiroglyphic-like markings cover the shell of this animal in two or three bands.
For centuries, the glory of the sea cone was considered the rarest shell in the world, as only a few specimens had been found. These shells were worth thousands of dollars, and belonged to wealthy collectors and museums. The reason for the rarity is due to the animal’s habitat, which is deep on the sandy sea floor near the Philippines and Indonesia. In the 18th century, a conus gloriamaris sold for three times the price paid the same year for Vermeer’s now-priceless painting, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.
In 1969, the habitat of conus gloriamaris was discovered, and since then hundreds have been collected. The value of the shell has dropped significantly since then. However, the glory of the sea is still highly collectible, both for its shape and coloring and also for its history.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2020 issue.