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Smithsonian Museum History Explorer

The shells of sea turtles were used in the 19th and 20th century to make items such as combs, glasses frames, guitar picks and jewelry. Before the invention of plastic, it was used in combs because it could be made soft and molded by heating. As it cooled it would harden and keep its new shape. in 1973, the trade of tortoiseshell was banned under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
This tortoiseshell woman's hair comb dates from the 19th century.

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