Shell ear-shaped; short flat spire, lateral, and nearly concealed; aperture wide; a longitudinal row of perforations on the left margin; the interior pearly and iridiscent.
* 'British Conchology,' vol. iii. p. 239. † 'Practical Cookery,' by Hartlaw Reid.
The Ear-shell, Ormer, Oreille de Mer, or Si-ieu (six yeux), is said to take its place in the British fauna solely on account of its being found in the Channel Islands, where it is very abundant; but it is still more so on the coast of France, between St. Malo and Granville, and great quantities are brought from thence to the Jersey market, which is well stocked during the summer, and they are sold at the rate of sixpence a dozen. They are also sold in the market at Cherbourg, and said to be found on the rocks of the breakwater. This celebrated shellfish has been praised by old authors as a most delicate morsel. One writer speaks of the Ormer, or Auris marina, as "a lump of white pulp, very sweet and luscious," and another, as quoted by Professor Ansted, in his 'Channel Islands,' mentions "a large shellfish, taken plentifully at low tides, called an Ormond, that sticks to the rocks, whence we beat them off with a forck or iron hook. 'Tis much bigger than an oyster, and like that, good either fresh or pickled, but infinitely more pleasant to the gusto, so that an epicure would think his palate in paradise if he might but always gormandize on such delicious ambrosia". Athenseus also tells us that the ώtia, or ears, are most nutritious when fried. Again, he says, "But otaria (and they are produced in the island called Pharos, which is close to Alexandria) are more nutritious than any of the before-mentioned fish (speaking of cockles, sea-urchins, pinnas, &c), but they are not easily secreted. But Antigonus, the Carystian, says this kind of oyster is called by the Aeolians the 'Ear of Venus.'"*
Captain Beechey, in his 'Voyage to the Pacific,' mentions the abundance of two species of Haliotis in the Bay of Monteroy, and that they are much sought after by the lndians, not only for food, but because the shells are used for ornaments, and the natives decorate their baskets with pieces of them. Haliotis gigantea is eaten by the Californian Indians, and the Chinese are very partial to Venus's-ears, which form part of a Chinese dinner, with sea-snails, shark's fins, etc. The Koreans dry great numbers of Haliotis and string them upon rattans for the Chinese market, and they sell at the rate of 800 for a dollar.* The shells of Haliotis tuberculata are said by M. Debeaux to be used in medicine by the Chinese. The Japanese also use the Haliotidae as food, and make them into soup.
* Athenaeus, 'Deipii.' vol. i. bk. iii. 35, p. 146.
Haliotis tuberculata, Ear-shell, or Sea-Ear.
del _ G. B. Sowerby. Vincent Brooks, Imp.
The large Haliotis gigantea they call Awabi, and Haliotis swpertexta is Tokobushi.†
Tha natives of New Zealand call Haliotis iris the mutton fish.
The Guernsey ear-shells are used by farmers to frighten away small birds from the standing corn - two or three of these shells being strung together and suspended by a string from the end of a large stick, so as to make a clattering noise when moved by the wind.‡
Haliotidae in great quantities are brought to Birmingham from various parts of the world, for making mother-of-pearl ornaments, buttons, and inlaying papier-mache tables, etc, and this latter art of ornamentation was introduced by George Suter, a decorator in the employ of Messrs. Jennens and Bettridge, who patented the invention in 1825. An instance has been known of a ship arriving at London from Panama, bringing more than two millions of pearl-shells for the English markets. During the last few years pearl-shells have risen in price, and in 1883, the value had increased from £160 to £240 and £250 per ton.*
* 'Travels of a Naturalist in Japan and Manchuria,' by Arthur Adams, F.L.S., R.N.
† 'Japan,' by J. J. Rein. ‡ 'British Conchology'.
The wholesale price in the Channel Islands for shells of the first quality is £10 per ton, and by retail they are sold at 1d. per lb.
Mother-of-pearl, however, is not only made from the Haliotidce, but the snail pearl-shell Turbo cornutus, the white pearl-shell, Meleagrina margaritifera, are also used in this manufacture.
Mr. John P. Turner, in his account of the ' Birmingham Button Trade,' says, "That no elaborate machinery is employed in the production of pearl buttons". Hitherto skilled hand labour, assisted by nothing but the foot-lathe, was alone employed. The mother-of-pearl which is cut into buttons, is of various kinds. The white-edged Macassar shells (Meleagrina margaritifera), fished almost entirely from the seas round Macassar, in the East Indies, are the finest in size and quality. The yellow-edged Manilla shells are more brittle in turning, and are used chiefly for knife-handles in the Sheffield trade. The Bombay and Alexandria shells are smaller in size and less delicate in tint and clearness, and are found in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea; they vary very much in quality and usefulness.
The Black shell, one of the Haliotidœ, is brought from the Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean, and is so called because, when polished, it throws out a very dark shade, full, however, of beautiful rainbow tints exquisitely blended. The Panama shells are the poorest species of shell, and are used for the inferior kinds of buttons.*
* Times, Feb. 13th, 1883.
Curiously carved pearl-shells, the work of the monks at Bethlehem, are sold by them to pilgrims and others who visit the Holy Land, and Bruce states that mother-of-pearl inlaying was brought to great perfection at Jerusalem. The nacre was from the Lulu el Berberi, or Abyssinian oyster. Great quantities were brought daily from the Red Sea to Jerusalem, and crucifixes, wafer-boxes, and beads were made and sent to the Spanish dominions in the New World.†
In the days of luxury at Rome, the panels in the golden house of Nero were of mother-of-pearl, enriched with gold and gems; and dishes, bowls, and cups of pearl-shell, were greatly esteemed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Leland," in his 'Collectanea,' describes the christening of the child of the Lady Cicile, "wife to John, Erle of Este Frieseland, called the Marquis of Bawden, and sister to Eryke, King of Sweden, and the decorations of the chapel, etc. The christening took place at the ' Queene's Palleyes, Westminster,' 30th Sept., Anno 1565, and the chap-pell was hung with cloathe of gold. The communion table was richly furnished with plate and Jewells, and amongst other ornaments were a 'Fountayne and Basen of mother-of-pearle, two shippes of mother-of-pearle, and another shipe of mother-of-pearle".‡