Silver-gilt turban shell cup

Silver-gilt turban shell cup from the Gilbert Collection, Somerset House London. Made by Jacob Frick in Konstanz, Germany circa 1590-1600. Item O157898 © V&A Images

Turbo marmoratus has been the focus of an intense fishery over the last century. It continues to be fished for its nacreous shell, which is used:

  • in the manufacture of buttons
  • as inlay material for lacquerware, furniture and jewellery

The heavy shell and large calcareous operculum are also valued as craft items and for the shell-trade. 

The animal itself is eaten and the meat forms an important part of the diet of fishermen and local communities throughout the Indo-West Pacific.

These fishing pressures are often very intense. World harvest of T. marmoratus was estimated at:

  • 800 tonnes in 1986
  • 1000 tonnes in 1987 and 1988

To enhance and replenish valuable wild stocks, this species has become the focus of aquaculture programmes in Indo-West Pacific countries like Indonesia and Vanuatu, and juveniles have been reintroduced or newly introduced into Tonga, Samoa and French Polynesia.


Consisting of nacre - an iridescent material composed of aragonite (a form of calcium carbonate). Nacre is also known as mother of pearl.

A hard plate that serves to close the mouth when the animal is withdrawn into the shell.