Why is the tortoiseshell colour called that?

Tortoiseshell is a popular colour used in eyewear frames, but have you ever wondered why it’s called “tortoiseshell”? Let’s explore the origins and characteristics of this unique colour.

Tortoiseshell refers to the colour pattern that resembles the shell of a tortoise. However, modern tortoiseshell frames are not made from real tortoise shells. In the past, they were indeed made from the shells of hawksbill turtles, an endangered species. Due to the decline in turtle populations and the need for conservation, the use of real tortoiseshell in eyewear has been banned for many years.


Instead, contemporary tortoiseshell frames are made from acetate, a durable and lightweight plastic material. The colour pattern is achieved by layering different shades of brown, black, and sometimes other colours like amber or green. The result is a beautiful, mottled pattern that resembles the intricate markings found on a tortoise shell.

It has become synonymous with this unique and timeless style. The popularity of tortoiseshell frames can be attributed to their versatility and ability to complement various skin tones and hair colours. The warm and earthy tones of the colourway add depth and character to any outfit, making them a popular choice for both men and women.

Tortoiseshell frames are available in a wide range of shapes and styles, from classic square or round frames to trendy cat-eye or aviator designs. The pattern variations can also vary, with some frames featuring a more prominent mix of colours, while others have a subtler, more uniform pattern.

Whether you’re looking for a sophisticated and professional look or a retro-inspired style, tortoiseshell frames can add a touch of elegance and charm to your eyewear collection. Their timeless appeal makes them a popular choice for both everyday use and special occasions.

When choosing your next frame, consider factors such as face shape, skin tone, and personal style. Consulting with an eyewear professional can help you find the perfect pair that flatters your features and matches your preferences.

While the use of real tortoiseshell is no longer ethical or legal, the beauty and allure of the tortoiseshell colour pattern continue to captivate eyewear enthusiasts. Embrace the classic charm and versatility of tortoiseshell frames to elevate your eyewear game.


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