Dentalium Shells with gold coloured bead
Gold coloured bead
Total length 4"
Dentalium, the word refers to tooth sheel or tusk shell. Peoples of the Northwest Pacific Coast would trade dentalium for other items including many foods, decorative materials, dyes, hides, macawfeathers which came from Central America, turquoise from the American Southwest, as well as many other items. The shells were valued for both trade and adornment. Athabaskan peoples of Alaska and subarctic Canada incorporate dentalium into jewelry with glass beads. Along with iron, these items were regarded as prestigious trade goods in the 19th century.
Traditionally, the shells were harvested from deep waters around the Pacific Northwest, especially off the coast of Vancouver Island. Today most dentalium shells in the shell trade are smaller, more brittle, and are harvested from coasts off Asia.