In ‘the now’ of fashion which is mostly, let’s be honest, just ‘the then redux’ there is an ever-growing list of things from the past that are back to wrap their retro selves around the latest generation. Over the last couple of years the return of 90s and early 00’s trends have been reported on exactly 280 billion times so that I’m quite sure they are more popular now than they ever were then.

However, this particular teen-of-the-90s writer is as happy as Hammer Pants to see the return of such credible creatures as the slip dress, the turtleneck and the roomy linen suit. So, when repurposed carapaces started cropping up on the necks and wrists of the style majors I clocked another one for the retro win-chart. In other words, shell jewellery is back. Crustaceans, watch your (literal) back. Prada delivered them with more than a hint of irony for autumn 2017 womenswear worn with embellished knits and crafty belts and then again for menswear spring 2018 this time with summery printed shirts and scuba details.

Prada autumn winter 2017

Upon seeing them begin to roll out, and before I could make brain space for new (better) shell memories, a montage of once-upon-a-Puka started playing in my mind. A flash of stacked chokers worn every summer despite their pinching and scratching and all the It-boys (almost exclusively Chad Michael Murray) who usually paired theirs with spike cut-hairdos and frosted tips. Then images of crafternoons spent punching micro-holes into mother of pearl discs before carefully clipping on earring loops and proudly wearing what were essentially homemade wind-chimes on our lobes. Then, there was the slightly bizarre re-emergence of the super-long Hawaiian ‘Kukui’ bead necklace. Not a shell, but vibing on the island idea, this trend was cute (if a little odd) considering we were all wearing them in the office with Breton tees and J-Crew chinos.

Chad Michael Murray circa 2001. Getty Images

So, like most great things that set themselves up in the 90s and 00’s their debut served as a first draft for a more refined, chic version now. This time round the shell of choice is the polished cowrie shell. Lined in a row and in choker form, occasionally dipped in gold and then layered with contrasting fine gold pendants. This is almost exclusively the resort look of summer 2019. Also receiving high commendation is the clam pendant, the nautilus earring and anything uniquely sculptural and shelly.


Despite the fact this is a trend, shell jewellery is never one to really leave the world of á la mode. In fact it exists despite it. The conjuring of a life more seaside where days are spent in hammocks and evenings are with sunsets and sundowners is one we all indulge in. Even if the reality is just cowries worn with a shirt and jeans to after-work drinks.

So where to purchase these mollusc beauties? If not collecting them from salty shores (which, by the way is illegal on many beaches, so be wary), then try these chic, pre-made options.



Shashi ‘caroline’ choker necklace, $83, from Shopbop, SHOP NOW
Tohum small puka shell necklace, $465, from Net-a-porter, SHOP NOW
Amber Sceats ‘Slater’ earrings, $149, SHOP NOW
Wald Berlin ‘drop it like it’s hot’ necklace, $315, from net-a-porter, shop now
Ryan Storer ‘terebra’ drop earring, $308, shop now
Reliquia reef charm pendant, $149, SHOP NOW
Mayol Jewellery ‘the cowrie’ choker, $49, from splice boutique, shop now
Isabel Marant shell bracelet, $132, from Net-a-porter, SHOP NOW
1064 Studio resin earring, $224, from net-a-porter, SHOP NOW
Arms of Eve ‘Acapulco’ shell jewellery, $60, from the iconic, shop now
Christie Nicholaides clam shell earrings, $249, SHOP NOW
Amber Sceats ‘April’ Necklace, $159, SHOP NOW