Faux tortoishell

Not everything is bad in the world of plastics, since its invention and development between the end of the 19th century and throughout the 20th century put an end to the uses of coral, ivory or the shell of large turtles by being able to imitate these materials and substantially reducing the killing of the animals from which they came.

Since the times of the Greeks and Romans, tortoiseshell was used to make instruments, furniture and small objects, being carey the most used for this and its use advanced in time through the different eras that saw in these articles a luxury and a distinction that would reach courts like the one of the Sun King or Queen Victoria's one.

Turtles were declared a protected species in the 60s and the trade of turtle shell, fortunately, was prohibited in 1973. Throughout the beginning of the 20th century, tortoiseshell effects were already being imitated with celluloid, but in the middle of the century, with the outbreak of acrylics like lucite, the tortoiseshell effect slipped into jewelry and the world of accessories.

From eyeglass frames, like those of celulose acetate that Oliver Goldsmith designed for Audrey Hepburn in her role as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, to handles, jewelry, and even electric guitar pickguards like those of Fender, the new materials offered very similar properties to the material they wanted to imitate with the advantage of not having to kill any species to obtain it.

And if its use was good, the abuse of plastics, in general, also affects the health and survival of these animals that live in seas full of plastic. Perhaps finding a balance and advocating the moderation, conservation and recycling of these materials would mean the end of a less direct death sentence than centuries ago, but one that should be taken into account.