Somewhat similar in appearance to coral is the conch jewelry, sets of which have been sold for $300. The tint is exquisite, but liable to fade when exposed to the sun. It is made from the great conch, common in Southern Florida and the West Indies. The shells are imported into Europe by thousands, and cut up into studs, sleeve-buttons, and various articles of ornament. These conches are supposed to be the producers of pink pearls, but I have opened hundreds of them and failed to find a single pearl. The conch shell is used by the cameo cutter. Rome and Paris are the principal seats of the trade, and immense numbers of shell cameos are imported by England and America, and mounted in rings, brooches, etc. The one showing a pale salmon-color upon an orange ground is much used. In 1847, 300 persons worked upon these shells in Paris alone, the number of shells used being immense. In Paris 300,000 helmet-shells were used in one year, valued at $40,000 of the bull's mouth, 80,000, averaging a little over a shilling apiece, equal to $34,000. Eight thousand black helmets were used, valued at $9,000. The value of the large cameos produced in Paris in the year 1847 was about $160,000, and the small ones $40,000. In the Wolfe collection of shells at the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, is a fine specimen of the queen conch from the Florida reef, with a fine head cut into the outer surface, showing how it is done.
The tools of the worker in cameos are of the most delicate description. Fine files, knitting-needle like implements, triangular-shaped steel cutters, are arranged in a seemingly endless confusion before the worker. The shell or piece of shell to be cut is either lashed or glued to a heavy block or held in the hand, and the face, animal, or other object outlined first with a delicate lead; having thus laid the foundation, the lines are gone over with a delicate needle first, then various kinds, the work gradually growing before the eye, reminding one of the work of the engraver on wood.