Cowry or cowrie, plural cowries, is the common name for a group of small to large sea snails, marine gastropod mollusks in the family Cypraeidae, the cowries.
The term porcelain derives from the old Italian term for the cowrie shell (porcellana) due to their similar appearance. Shells of certain species have historically been used as currency in several parts of the world, as well as being used, in the past and present, very extensively in jewelry, and for other decorative and ceremonial purposes.
The cowry was the shell most widely used worldwide as shell money. It is most abundant in the Indian Ocean, and was collected in the Maldive Islands, in Sri Lanka, along the Malabar coast, in Borneo and on other East Indian islands, and in various parts of the African coast from Ras Hafun to Mozambique. Cowry shell money was important in the trade networks of Africa, South Asia, and East Asia.
Some species in the family Ovulidae are also often referred to as cowries. In the British Isles the local Trivia species (family Triviidae, species Trivia monacha and Trivia arctica) are sometimes called cowries. The Ovulidae and the Triviidae are somewhat closely related to Cypraeidae.