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tortoiseshell,horny, translucent, mottled plates covering the carapace of the tropical hawksbill turtle. The plates, too thin for most purposes in their original form, are usually built up in layers that are molded or compressed after the surfaces have been liquefied by heat; thus, a firm union is effected after resolidification. Inlays can be imbedded in the shell with a hot iron. Tortoiseshell has been used in veneering since ancient times; its chief use today is in the manufacture of toilet articles and decorative objects. It is imitated in products of celluloid and horn, but the laminated structure of most genuine work aids in identifying the real shell.
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1. a horny translucent yellow-and-brown mottled substance obtained from the outer layer of the shell of the hawksbill turtle: used for making ornaments, jewellery, etc.
2. a breed of domestic cat, usually female, having black, cream, and brownish markings
3. any of several nymphalid butterflies of the genus Nymphalis, and related genera, having orange-brown wings with black markings
4. tortoiseshell turtle another name for hawksbill turtle
5. a yellowish-brown mottled colour
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005