Curios are small objects which are prized for their rarity or distinctiveness. The term is short for “curiosity.” Many people keep a few curios around their homes, and they are often topics of interest and discussion at parties. Sometimes a curio comes with an interesting history, or it sparks conversation simply because it is so distinctive. In some cases, such objects are displayed in a curio cabinet, which sets them off to advantage while protecting them. Some curio cabinets are works of art or curiosities in and of themselves.
People have been collecting objects which make them curious for thousands of years. Early explorers always brought back unusual artifacts from the regions they visited, to try and convey at least a small aspect of the cultures they interacted with. Some of these curios were also very valuable, either because they contained valuable components like silver and gold, or because they were very unusual. Many people in medieval society created “cabinets of curiosities” which they displayed to interested guests; these collections often included scientific specimens.
Although curios are easier to obtain than they once were, thanks to an interconnected globe, some are still quite unusual. Handmade curios from remote civilizations, for example, are often highly prized, because they are considered one-of-a-kind. In other cases, curios are distinctive because they are from civilizations and cultures which have collapsed, so they have historic interest. The tradition of bringing small objects back from foreign travels is also still retained; most people, for example, expect gifts from close friends after they have been adventuring in remote or interesting places.
These decorative objects tend to be small, distinguishing them from larger works of art, and their value varies widely. In some instances, a curio holds more sentimental than actual value, because the owner associates it with an interesting trip or with the person who presented the curio as a gift. In other cases, curios are extremely valuable, as is the case with artifacts from lost civilizations held in museum collections.
In addition to acquiring curios while traveling, it is also often possible to purchase curios from shops which specialize in the importation and sale of unusual objects. In some instances, these shops may focus on curios from a particular place, as might be the case with a store which specializes in African crafts, or a curiosity shop might be more general, enticing patrons with a wide range of unusual objects.