A predominance of ornaments produced in shell is seen as a hallmark of the Neolithic of Island Southeast Asia, and stands in contrast with the ascendancy of glass and semi-precious stone ornaments that characterise the proceeding Metal Age. However, shell beads excavated from the southwest Philippine site of Ille Cave, on Palawan Island, demonstrate that shell bead production not only continued well into the Metal Age, but transformed radically in response to new, incoming trade beads from mainland Asia. Neolithic traditions of minimally modified whole shells used as beads were supplanted by new forms of shell beads manufactured using techniques more closely allied to those seen in lapidary work than traditional shell-working. The presence of this assemblage undermines arguments that see the replacement of traditional, local technologies with exotic, imported goods in uncritical or uncomplicated terms.