VOICE BTortoiseshell is a material produced from the shells of the larger species of tortoise and turtle. In fan making it is mainly the hawksbill sea turtle which is worked. On the lower level you can see an example of a hawksbill turtle. The number of ‘plates’ produced by each turtle is thirteen. Blonde tortoiseshell, the most prized type of shell, derives from the turtle’s underbelly. Only the best, most expensive fan sticks were made from it. It is sometimes similar in colour to amber and is often mistake for it. Tortoiseshell is prepared and worked in similar ways to horn. It is softened by boiling in water, with the addition of salt which prevents colour loss.
The Fan Museum is the UK's only organisation of its kind, devoted entirely to the subject of fans and craft of fan making. Housed in two beautifully restored Georgian period townhouses, its collections number more than 7,000 objects dating from the 12th century to present day.