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a marine gastropod mollusk of the familyCypraeidae (Cypraea moneta and, sometimes, C. annulus). Theshell, which measures up to 3 cm tall, is shiny and white oryellowish. In live money cowries, the mantle covers most of theshell. Money cowries inhabit the tropical parts of the Indian andPacific oceans. Their shells have been prized for their beauty andfrom antiquity to the early 20th century were used as a meansof exchange (shell currency) among a number of peoples of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific islands; in antiquity they were used ascurrency in Europe as well. The money cowries were strung onstrings or stored in a sack. They were obtained primarily fromthe Maldives, near Ceylon. In Europe and Middle Asia theywere primarily used as ornaments.