ABOUT THE SHELLS
Tridacnidae is the name given to a species of giant clams. This family contains the largest living bivalve species, Tridacna Gigas, which is the most endangered clam species alive today. Our giant clamshells, Tridacna Gigantea, are an extinct species, much older, larger and rarer. They are so old, in fact, that the clamshells have fossilized. This process has transformed the calcium compound of the shell structure into aragonite, meaning the nacre layer revealed is now made of actual crystal. The surface has become glassy and shines with luster and an array of colors, making each piece completely unique.
These clams became extinct around 180,000 years ago, during the later Pleistocene period, when sea levels suddenly rose by about 65 feet. As a result of the sea rise, the algae living in symbiosis with the clam could not get enough sunlight for ‘photosynthesis’, thereby starving the Gigantea to death. Tridacna Gigantea, sometimes containing baroque blister pearls, are the most rare and unique shells known to exist. In our collection, we actually have the largest baroque blister pearl ever found, with both sides of the shell in perfect condition.
Tridacna Gigantea shells are found deeply embedded in ancient limestone quarries of East Africa, anywhere from 3-23 feet in depth and are usually broken. The depth and size of the shells tells us of its history and age. Each shell takes a skilled worker up to 6 months to excavate and a further 2 months to clean and polish using diamond tools. From start to finish, it can take up to 6 months before the shell starts to reveal its natural beauty, hidden beneath the fossilized layers, the finished pieces being described as ‘music for your eyes’.
Tridacna Gigantea are also the largest species of the Tridacnidae family. The biggest one in our collection has a staggering weight of 992 pounds. We also have a single clamshell which weighs 496 pounds after being cleaned and polished. Comparatively, the biggest Tridacna Gigas was found in Okinawa, Japan, in 1956, only weighing in at around half that.
Over a period of 30 years, marine conservationist, Volker Bassen, has searched for these shells along the East African coast for his own research, creating this private collection. In 2016, he decided to share their beauty with the world and sell these natural treasures to help fund his women’s outreach projects in Kenya, one of these projects being WonderCup.
Home: Diani Beach, Kenya
Marine conservationist, Volker Bassen, moved to Kenya at 23 years old, setting up 20+ diving schools along the East African coastline. His love for Kenya and its ocean holds no bounds, having also established the Whale Shark Trust with his wife in 2005. Volker has searched for Tridacna Gigantea shells for his own research and to protect them from being destroyed. These shells that are now presented to you as The Venus Collection have been sitting in his own private collection for more than 20 years, their beauty finally being shared with the public.
Volker named the company The Venus Collection after seeing the painting The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, 1485 and it suddenly dawned on him that Venus, the Goddess of love and fertility was born from a giant clamshell, according to legend. When he sold his first fossilized clam shells, he used the proceeds to fund his outreach project, WonderCup, which he continues to support today.
Home: Miami Beach, FL
Chéshona first met Volker in 2017 due to their mutual work with WonderCup, a foundation helping to educate and provide women with an affordable and hygienically superior menstruation solution. Chéshona is seen here wearing a necklace from the Venus Collection jewelry line, made from a piece of shell. The profits help to improve the lives of women, trying to end the stigma around menstruation that many continue to face. Chéshona has travelled the world giving talks and providing menstrual cups in countries such as Indonesia, India, Mexico and Brazil.
Now based in Florida, Chéshona is set on spreading the story of these unique shells and making them accessible across the US for purchase so that people can own a unique piece of history and art, while also generating funds for such a worthy cause.
GIVING BACK: WONDERCUP
In developing countries, period poverty affects 2.3 billion girls and women. Period poverty refers to an overall lack of access to menstruation education and other resources, including toilets, sanitary napkins, clean water sources and waste management. Many girls who are unable to access menstrual products often resort to using rags, paper or other unsafe materials that cannot be properly clean and sanitized. As a result, this poses a threat to their health and well-being.
Menstrual cups are made of medical grade silicone, can last for up to 10 years, are safer, cost effective & environmentally friendly. This alternative gives control back to the women and leaves them feeling empowered. World Bank estimates that adolescent schoolgirls in developing nations lose 20% of their education because they can’t afford sanitary items. So far, we have donated 10,000+ WonderCups, financed by the sales of our clamshells and jewelry.
Click HERE to learn more.