The chambered nautilus, Nautilus pompilius, is the best-known species of nautilus. The shell, when cut away, reveals a lining of lustrous nacre and displays a nearly perfect equiangular spiral, although it is not a golden spiral. The shell exhibits countershading, being light on the bottom and dark on top. This is to help avoid predators, because when seen from above, it blends in with the darkness of the sea, and when seen from below, it blends in with the light coming from above.
Nautilus shells were popular items in the Renaissance cabinet of curiosities and were often mounted by goldsmiths on a thin stem to make extravagant nautilus shell cups, such as the Burghley Nef, mainly intended as decorations rather than for use. Small natural history collections were common in mid-19th-century Victorian homes, and chambered nautilus shells were popular decorations.
A silvered and gilt-metal mounted nautilus cup, circa 1870
Middle Jurassic Parkinsonia dorsetensis amonite
This nautilus cup (one of two in the Royal Collection) was purchased by George IV from Rundell, Bridge & Rundell in December 1826
Nautilus Shell Cup. Hans Ludwig Kienle
Nautilus Cups. 1625-50
A late 16thearly 17th century Dutch silver-gilt mounted turban shell nautilus cup and associated cover Utrecht date letter possibly 1605 maker's mark three lozenges in a shield for Eersten (Ernst)
A nautilus shell was used to fashion this drinking cup depicting Atlas, a legendary titan of Greco-Roman mythology.
Nautilus Balthasar Permoser Bernhard Quipp to 1707
Nautilus Shell Cup.1585-1586
Nautilus cup 1592. Silver gilt, nautilus shell, glass and enamel, Gemeente Musea, Delft
Nautilus Cutaway Logarithmic Spiral