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or tortoise shell
is a material produced mainly from the shell of the hawksbill turtle
The hawksbill sea turtle is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. It is the only extant species in its genus. The species has a worldwide distribution, with Atlantic and Pacific subspecies. E. imbricata imbricata is the Atlantic subspecies, while E...
, an endangered species. It was widely used in the 1960s and 1970s in the manufacture of items such as comb
A comb is a toothed device used in hair care for straightening and cleaning hair or other fibres. Combs are among the oldest tools found by archaeologists...
Sunglasses or sun glasses are a form of protective eyewear designed primarily to prevent bright sunlight and high-energy visible light from damaging or discomforting the eyes. They can sometimes also function as a visual aid, as variously termed spectacles or glasses exist, featuring lenses that...
, guitar pick
A guitar pick is a plectrum used for guitars. A pick is generally made of one uniform material; examples include plastic, nylon, rubber, felt, tortoiseshell, wood, metal, glass, and stone...
s and knitting needle
A knitting needle or knitting pin is a tool in hand-knitting to produce knitted fabrics. They generally have a long shaft and taper at their end, but they are not nearly as sharp as sewing needles. Their purpose is two-fold...
s. In 1973, the trade of tortoiseshell worldwide was banned under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Tortoiseshell was attractive to manufacturers and consumers because of its beautiful appearance and its durability, and its organic warmth against the skin. It was used in guitar picks because it can be easily shaped, has excellent bending properties, and is very durable – tortoiseshell picks could sometimes be used for years. Piqué-work, jewelry made from tortoiseshell inlaid with precious metals in patterns or pictures, was made during the Victorian Era
The Victorian era of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It was a long period of peace, prosperity, refined sensibilities and national self-confidence...
and was highly prized.
There have been a number of faux tortoiseshell materials developed since the 1970s, most of which mimic the appearance of tortoiseshell. Tortex is a material that was created to replace tortoiseshell guitar picks and has been widely accepted as a suitable substitute.