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  • DeuxDoigts_Tonnerre 3:59PM
  • jonpowl 4:00PM

Genuine Tortoise shell for sale, is this for real???


This left me scratching my head, surely this has to be a con? I thought the purchase of genuine tortoise shell to be illegal? I've occasionally spent some time trawling ebay looking for any old Victorian tortoise shell buttons which i thought i might be able to shape into a suitable guitar pick, but this web site seems to good to be true.

What do you fellow jazzers think?
Currently-Gitane 250M
Previously-Gitane 255
Previously- Gitane D500


  • Charlie AyersCharlie Ayers Salt Lake CityProdigy
    I believe the international ban on the sale of turtle shell pertains only to various endangered species of sea turtles; it's from their shells that guitar picks have been made. You can read more about it here:


    I'm not sure the shells for sale on the site that you referenced would be thick enough for pick production.

  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    These guys were at Samois this year:
    I had a pick I made from a piece of real tortoise shell my grandmother gave me from some broken jewelery and I also bought one from them at this year`s festival, and I can tell you what they`re selling really is authentic.
    If your in doubt you can cut a very small bit from the pick and burn it, it should smell like burnt nails. You can also learn to identify it by sound and looking it against light.
    I`ve heard that in China tortoise shell trade is legal, they seem to think it is an aphrodisiac...go figure.
  • Well it is certainly an expensive affair! Having spent about 20 minutes scanning through a lot of pages on google, i discovered a car dealer in the USA with a small section on his web site devoted to rare collectable items and guess what he has a small supply of genuine tortoise plectrums from the 1950's, at $69 a shot their by no means cheap! I figured i'll go ahead and buy one, i just have to know why the old school players reckon the tortoise pick is the bomb. We'll see......
    Currently-Gitane 250M
    Previously-Gitane 255
    Previously- Gitane D500
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Very expensive they are!
    The guys at Samois sell `em at 20-60 euros depending on thickness.
    But it really is a very special sound.
    Good luck!
  • pallopennapallopenna Rhode IslandNew
    Let me just mention that if you go to Flatpickin.com's forum you can see a long thread about this with some official quotes. As I understand it, the sale, or trade of tortois-shell is illegal through the mail regardless of when the shell was 'harvested.' If you can prove that it is at least 100 years old, you can sell it, but not by mail. The burden of proof is on you, and you're libel if you provide false documentation.



    Flatpickin' thread:
    Reject the null hypothesis.
  • If you want a natural material pick that wears well and sounds "old school" then I have two suggestions for you that will give you a fantastic sounding pick for not a lot of money and no possibility of legal difficulty or ethical remorse.

    1.) Coconut. If you get a good dark glossy hard chunk of coconut you can make a pick out of it that will blow your mind... good crispness... sharp woody leads and big chunky dry rhythm. Best of all - you can get all the material you need at your local grocery store for cheap.

    2.) Tagua Nut. The sound is a bit softer - so is the pick. It's a great "big fat lead line" pick and good for a rich rosin-filled pompe sound but I find that it wears out if you use it for repetitive rhythm like a true Bossa. It wears way better than ebony - but it wears nonetheless. I have a local source for Tagua but found this guy on line with about 30 seconds of Googling. If you don't hav a lot of tools - maybe buying slices is smart because cutting Tagua nut slices and thicknessing them properly is a major pain in the backside. http://www.turtlefeathers.com/text/natu ... tagua.html

    Shape is really important. The Dugain and Sarod picks just don't get you there. But if you don't have a lot of tools - maybe buying one of their coconut picks and shaping it will get you there faster. Or - just get a Wilton Stubbie - the Wilton Stubbie shape is so close to the design I've arrived at after years of experimentation that if I were paranoid I'd think he copied me. He's at http://www.wiltonpicks.2ya.com/
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • +1 for the coconut pick, i have two of these already and i kinda prefer them surprisingly over the Wegen picks. As you say they give a nice large sound, feel nice in the fingers, more organic than plastic ones, also i get a good full sound from the coconut.
    Currently-Gitane 250M
    Previously-Gitane 255
    Previously- Gitane D500
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    about this "django used tortoise shell picks" thing...
    is there any proof?

    i can get the same sound using a cheap dunlop.

    tortoise shell is actually too hard. it creates a really bright, hollow sound. doesn't sound like django at all.
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
  • Pretty much everything I've ever read about Django would tend to indicate that he used "whatever was available" and sounded good on all of it. Django made sure he was dressed well - on that point there is plenty of evidence - but I'm not aware of anything that would strongly suggest that he used a particular type of pick exclusively; whether of design or material; whether in his early or late career.

    I know of two pieces of information (one in this forum and the other on a site calle Arte Ecaille) http://art-ecaille.com/turtle-shell-EN/plectrum.htm that talk about Gypsy plectrums and mention Django (how can one talk about GJ and not do so) but these do not constitute a definitive opinion in my estmation and sadly - most of they guys one could ask about Django's equipment are not walking around anymore.

    My own personal rockstar/hero, Tchavolo Schmitt, was playing Dugain Ebony picks at DFNW because he was given a handful of them when he arrived. He was playing my guitar and using my Wegen 1.5mm and said: "It's nice, will you trade?" Sure! Truth is that I don't like Dugain Ebony picks all that much but I do like having a Tchavolo-played pick as a keepsake. Tchavolo made both the Dugain & the Wegen sound good. He could likely make any reasonable pick sound good. I have to believe Django would be the same. These guys were born poor - scrappers - they would have had to learn their craft using what they had and adapt to the situation to rise to the top.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    actually, lately, i'been able to get a good sound from fender thins. does anyone know their thickness?
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
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