By Alex Scott
Of the more than 100,000 known species of shells, one of the most rare and the most valuable for many years was 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.
No longer the most expensive seashell
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, and it is no longer the world's most expensive shell. 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.
Learn more about shells and more from around the world:
- Bubble Shells
- The Chambered Nautilus
- Egg-citing Finds: Whelk Egg Casings
- Hidden Beauty: Quahog Shells
- How to Identify Live Sand Dollars
- Identifying Florida Seashells
- Is That Scallop Shell Broken?
- Lucky Stones
- The Red Abalone
- Saving the Shoreline with Star Sand
- Shark Eyes: The Cannibalistic Mollusk
- The Starfish (Is Not a Fish)
- Top 10 Sanibel Sea Shells
View a beautiful collection of shells found in Japan
No live shelling: Be sure shells are empty and sand dollars, sea stars, and sea urchins are no longer alive before you bring them home.
Please do not post about buying or selling shells in the comments. They will not be shown. Thanks!
In 20 years plus of an interest in Gloriamaris, I have not read anything about a variation, of 2 distinct colours.
A light to medium brown, and a dark chocolate brown
Happily, I have both, and am happy to forward a pic of them together, to interested collectors.
Both mine came from The Philippines around 15 years ago on seperate trips and had been live caught, so beautiful condition.
I have some large shells is there a place to look them up for what kind and how much. On of mine twist opposite then others. Can I send pictures somewhere of shells to get further info.
All sea shells are made to be loved and to be admired because they’re made beautifully wonderful. I come across some that I’ve never seeing before and because my house is just right by the sea about 20m, I wake up every morning to see different tapes every day.
I have a rather large collection of shells from around the world, and would like to know what they are worth if anything. Could someone give me some insight, please!Thank you, Gary.
P.s. I live in Texas
I’d like information on the world’s most expensive sea shells currently on the market.
Shells of all types, shapes,sizes and have a very attractive beautiful colours (of all shell species) that you can ever imagine are currently on the beach where I belong to. I am honestly assuring you that these shells were washed up to the beach during the cyclone driven waves from the previous years until the present. Conus goriamaris shells are so many compared to the other shell species. In Papua New Guinea, there’s hundreds of places you can collect these shells, my place is one of those places that has the large quantity of these shells.
Great Question, Manjul! There are several families of molluscs which normally produce left-handed (sinistral) shells, mostly freshwater and land snails. In seashells, left-handedness is rarer. There are only a few families which normally produce sinistral shells. There are some places where sinistral shells are more common, but in general, these “freak” left-handed shells are less common and could be valuable for a collector who wants to have every variation in a certain type of shell.
Are shells which turn anticlockwise more valuable than the clockwise ones
Conus Gloriamaris is worth very little now.There are thousands of species worth much more.Same with Cypraea Aurantium and Cypraea Armeniaca
In Queensland we probably have over 200 species worth more than Gloriamaris and in West Australia they are virtually all worth more