A cowrie is a marine mollusk, a sea creature with a bright, glossy shell. The largest number of cowries live in the Indian Ocean.
Cowrie shells were once a common form of currency, traded as money or worn as jewelry. They are particularly beautiful, shiny as porcelain (a word that's derived from the old Italian term for cowrie, porcellana). In North America, cowries are common along parts of the California coast, in Mexico, and in some parts of the Southeastern U.S. Cowrie is from the Hindi and Urdu kauri and a Sanskrit root, kaparda, "shell."
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