Tortoiseshell canes

Tortoiseshell canes were among the most expensive of their time. They were difficult to make, and few examples survived because of their fragility. The carette turtle provided the best material for canes, and a tortoiseshell shaft required the largest six pieces of the 13 natural plaques of one, large turtle. The pieces had to come from a single animal, as each turtle had an individual, different grain.

Paris specialized in tortoiseshell articles and had the best artists in that field. The lighter the color, the more appreciated the tortoiseshell.

Figural tortoiseshell handles are extremely rare and were difficult to make and among the most expensive of their time. Today, the knowledge of handling tortoiseshell is totally lost, with few surviving examples.

French Piqué ivory milord handle with tortoiseshell inlay.
Ca. 1880-Solid tortoiseshell handle carved to depict a child’s head, 18 karat yellow gold collar, well spotted snakewood shaft. Image courtesy of Kimball M. Sterling Inc., #8, Tortoiseshell Figural Cane-Ca. 1880, March 16, 2014.
Tortoiseshell veneer crook handle cane.

For antique cane and walking stick enthusiasts