The world's most expensive seashell

By Alex Scott

glory of the sea cone seashell most valuable

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.

glory of the sea cone shell

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.

most valuable seashell conus gloriamaris

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2020 issue.

Learn more about shells and more from around the world:

View a beautiful collection of shells found in Japan

More about seashells

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.

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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

Gary September 05, 2021

I’d like information on the world’s most expensive sea shells currently on the market.

William Boski August 24, 2021

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.
Alex Weis

Alex Weis August 10, 2021

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.

Kirsti June 30, 2021

Are shells which turn anticlockwise more valuable than the clockwise ones

Manjul June 30, 2021

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
Doug Thorn

Douglas Thorn February 13, 2021

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