Prior to the establishment, by European colonial powers, of a modern monetary system in Africa, the most widespread currency in the region was gold, most often in the form of gold dust. However, for purchases for which gold was much too valuable cowrie shells were adopted as the common currency for everyday use. As cowrie shells are not native to West African waters they were brought from the Indian Ocean in East Africa. Although they are now no longer of any use as currency they remain esthetically pleasing to Africans for embellishment of many items they use. The cowrie shells used to make these belts are the real thing, not fake manufactured reproductions.