Friday, January 07, 2011

The secret life of pearls.

I've been enjoying a book called "Jewells, a secret history" by Victoria Finlay. I thought it might be a bit dry but it's full of wonderful snippets of history and information that is new to me.

Julius Ceasar and his invasion of Britain to gain control of the mineral resources and boatloads of flaxen haired slave girls was just a front. He had his eye on the country's pearls. He'd already decreed that only aristrocrats could wear pearls and only Caesar could wear a purple toga to match.

So, pearls in Britain? River pearls, natural fresh water pearls from mussels. Rose pink from Scotland, black pearls from Ennerdale in Cumbria and white pearls from Ireland. They were harvested and exported all over Europe. (The only pearl discovered in Fleetwood is Our Brian).

Unfortunately river pearling was forbidden in 1998 due to men's greed and disregard of the delicate balance of the ecological systems and disruption of the wild mating habits of the mussels

Pearl mussels breed every summer in an orgy of shared sperm and group sex in which the male mussels spray semen over the females as they all stand in the water. Thanks to pollution and overfishing by amateurs there aren't enough mussels for a good swingers party and breeding doesn't take place.
Each Scottish river produced a slightly different pearl colour, the old pearl fishers also known as "Travellers" put it down to the amount of peat in the water.
Rivers that breed mussels also breed salmon and they have a symbiotic relationship. After the breeding orgy when one female mussel can produce about two hundred thousand spat (young'uns) they hitch a ride on a passing salmon, staying on the fish all winter then drop off in the spring. This means they settle in a different part of the river from where they started, Nature's way of stirring up the gene pool.
Now take notes, there'll be an exam.
We've all been told how pearls are formed. A wandering grain of sand slips into the mussel or oyster shell, irritates the hell out of it so it secretes nacre to cover and neutralize the nuisance.
It's usually a small parasite wanting a snack and manages to slip between two deformed shells.
French natural scientist, Raphael Dubois asked if we would love a pearl as much if we knew it was the brilliant sarcophagus of a worm.
The pearl fishers of British and Scottish rivers looked for the 'uglies' hiding under rocks and these were the keepers of the treasure. After the legendary Abernathy Pearl was discovered in the 1960s, the hordes invaded and like all hordes took every shell except the 'uglies' so greed destroyed the river mussels.
From our wormy 'uglies' of the river to the giants of the oceans. Pearl farming waits for no worm or sand grit, the shells are opened slightly, the nuclei for the nacre is inserted.......into the 'nads'.
That certainly gets the soothing nacre moving fast. In the words of Victoria Finlay, "Few outside the trade are aware that almost every pearl on sale today was born of the planned sexual violation of a small creature and considerable suffering hangs on those necklace strings".
Oh gosh darn, hang a guilt trip on a pearl lover. Add to the list, no sexually violated pearls, no blood diamonds, no Burmese rubies controlled by megalomaniacal Generals, no Columbian emeralds funded by drug lords and no 'synthetic as real' gems from thieving eBay dealers.


River said...

That's a long list of no-nos JahTeh. What gems will you have in your next tiara then?

Jayne said...

Back in the 80s there were a couple of stalls at the Fremantle Market where they sold fresh water mussles that were 2nds - warped shapes, colours, etc.
They were already set in jewellery settings - pendant, earrings, bracelet, brooch, etc, but the imperfections made them far more attractive than their identically boring perfect cousins.
And now I want a time machine to go back and get those imperfect uber cheap beauties, hmph.

Anonymous said...

That was really interesting, but no matter how much you flatter Brian, he is too lazy to whisk you back to Fleetwood for entanglement.

phil said...

The very first amoeba
Once said to his inside
I can't get on together George
I really must divide.

iODyne said...

Thanks for explaining 'river' pearls, as I always wondered how that Tudor Queen could be covered in pearls when ocean diving gear hadn't been invented yet.
I suppose opals are OK - no slavery or corruption?
great post JahTeh and great comment by Phil.

Brian Hughes said...

"...the male mussels spray semen over the females as they all stand in the water..."

Sounds like Club 18-30.

Actually we have oyster beds in the River Wyre. They call the oysters Hambleton Hookings. Don't ask me why, 'cos I don't honestly know. Can't say as I've ever been diving for them, though.

JahTeh said...

River, need you ask? They'll be true Aussie gems, Argyle Pinks. Of course they'll have to be the deep red pink to go with my hair.

Jayne, I always regret not buying any gem I see. And to think I wouldn't have a Mabe pearl because you have to kill the oyster to get it.

Our Fleetwood pearl beyond price is also beyond flattery. The idea of the two of us entangled is also beyond modern physics.

Phil, you have almost taken the Poet Laureate title from Robbert.
He'll have to lift his game after that.

Stacks, they also have sapphires in one part of Scotland, tiny things though, gold in Wales but not enough to make Catherine's wedding ring. Opals are okay, just won by hard graft and bought by thieving overseas buyers.

Well don't just sit there Hughes, me lad, get going and find out. Hambleton Hookings, sounds like something from the Hughes Dungeons.

Lad Litter said...

Oohh, that was great, Jahteh! You mixed so much history and mythbusting fact in that post, I read it twice.

R.H. said...

My sort of poet can't lift his game.
My only comeback is to lift Phil's wallet.

JahTeh said...

LL, They just found a colony of mussels in a river in Africa, thought to be extinct and they do exactly the same with fish as the Scottish mussels. Pollution is knocking them off too.

Robbert, I thought you'd left those days behind you.

Middle Child said...

That is something else to know

R.H. said...

Thank you Miss Jahteh. I'm reformed but never lost.
The nice thing about larceny is you can always go back to it.

River said...

I googled Argyle Pinks and got images of sweaters and socks, a baby wrapped in an argyle patterned blanket, and some of the diamonds too. They're very pretty.

R.H. said...

A certain judge was an expert on criminology. It may have helped when I burgled his house.
I wore his watch for years (name filed off the back).
I wore it from Copenhagen to Peshawar, it travelled the world, as he wrote books on criminology. Our paths never crossed, not even in court.
It would be nice to say they did.

R.H. said...

I still have the watch. It's an auto wind. The auto got shaken up by the motor bike: Copenhagen to Peshawar (three rough deserts). I've since had it repaired, and the file marks on the back (there'd been an inscription) were polished out. Oh my goodness, DELETED! Sorry judge, ha ha ha. Well he's dead now. A lifetime in law. Hard to imagine. He was a nice chap, that's what I think. That's what I imagine. I guess he visited Pentridge: a tour of all his stock. Well it's hard for oak-panelled upbringing to connect with the slums. But I've got his watch, that's my connection. Latest valuation: $2,500.

R.H. said...

Well let's be plain, this timepiece, when I first saw it was in its own little case, sitting there with the lid open, exactly as it would have been when presented to His Honour. Fellow wig heads had gone to the trouble of having it inscribed, on the back was His Honour's name, the date, and the occasion.
I began wearing it immediately, taking it off in low dives to show the inscription. It was a sensation, causing enormous fuss, enormous argument. But then I eventually realised it could hang me, so I filed it off.
Still, the facts are easily proven. Ha. Well darlings I can always say I just heard about it, but really I don't care anymore, I care so little I'll tell the truth, blow up everything. That's where I'm at. I've found something out, the truth isn't a pansy, a moral, a church, the truth is an act of violence.

R.H. said...

Hark ye worthy parishioners, come forth!- behold this wonder, this bank-fearing society! Have faith, always remember, God Mammon hath love for thee, and a kick up the arse if you default. Keep tithing, thine High Priests at the Commonwealth, the only true bank, whose pope resideth in Toorak, saith tithe, tithe, tithe, lest ye be rammed through the eye of a fucking needle. And beware false profits, and prophets as well, the Governor of the Reserve Bank is a brothel owner, and the Minister for Finance has a Vatican supermarket with topless checkout chicks. Keep the faith, that's all, let finance come into thine heart; honour thy father, thy mother, and money. Verily I say unto you, Lazarus was an idiot, wasn't dead at all, interest rates, not Christ, raise the dead. Okay? Hallelujah!

Bank of ages
Fine by me
Let me give
My dough to thee!



R.H. said...

Judas got a windfall, but failed to bank it.

There's another idiot for you.

JahTeh said...

A burglar, RH? In the class system such a step up from the petty bash and snatch bums that trawl the trees these days.