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Tortoiseshell Restoration

Tortoiseshell caskets and cabinets, tea caddies, card cases, jewellery boxes, photo frames, clock cases and trays comprise a large proportion of our work. From the 17th to the early 20th centuries, an endless range of decorative items were made from or veneered with this beautiful material, often combined with silver to brilliant effect.

Bad handling, dirt, climate, sunlight or just pure age affects the tortoiseshell which after time requires varying levels of restoration or repair. On this page you will see examples of tea caddies, green tortoiseshell, pressed tortoiseshell, clock cases and other items. Please browse our before and after photos to see what can be achieved, and click on any image to enlarge.


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Tortoiseshell Tea Caddies

Of all shapes, sizes and colour.


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A lovely shaped Regency caddy brought back to life.





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Sun damaged shell renewed.






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Damaged front panel and ivory lines replaced.





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An impressive double caddy with pillar decoration.





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A pretty single blonde shell caddy with later but not new finial.








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Pewter lines: most here have popped out of their slots, and some have been lost. A common problem.




Green Tortoiseshell

To achieve this lovely colour, green gesso was applied to the back of pale shell, perhaps to add interest to the caddy. The shell is not stained as it is sometimes described.


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Time and atmospheric dirt really play havoc with green shell. The transformation can be amazing.





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This lovely caddy had collapsed at the corners and had to be rebuilt.





Pressed Tortoiseshell

Highly collectable, pressed tortoiseshell caddies are prized for their impressed 'gothic' panels. Very decorative.

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Tortoiseshell Clock Cases




Small clocks are prone to accidental damage, like this lovely example.



Other Tortoiseshell Objects



And to finish this section a montage of a small selection of the many items that pass through our workshop.

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A Guide to Tortoiseshell Tea Caddy Restoration Costs


Each caddy presents its own particular set of problems, a selection of which you will have seen from the photographs above. We are still, after all these years, often presented with damage that we have not previously encountered. Each piece has its own history.

Unfortunately, there is no quick way with tortoiseshell. If there was we would have found it! All work has to be done by hand, and this is naturally time consuming. However, you can be reassured that all our work is of the highest standard

From our experience of such work, the general refurbishment of a caddy, dependent upon the amount of remedial work needed, will start in the range of 300 - 500. Badly damaged caddies can cost a great deal more to restore.

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