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There is no doubt that pearls wear with use, and will change their colour, if neglected. All their merit consists in their whiteness, large size, roundness, polish, and weight; qualities which are not easily to be found united in the same; so much so, indeed, that no two pearls are ever found perfectly alike; and it was from this circumstance, no doubt, that our Roman luxury first gave them the name of "unio,"1 or the unique gem: for a similar name is not given them by the Greeks; nor, indeed, among the barbarians by whom they are found are they called anything else but "margaritæ."2 Even in the very whiteness of the pearl there is a great difference to be observed. Those are of a much clearer water that are found in the Red Sea,3 while the Indian pearl resembles in tint the scales4 of the mirror-stone, but exceeds all the others in size. The colour that is most highly prized of all, is that of those which are thence called alum-coloured5 pearls. Long pearls also have their peculiar value; those are called "elenchi," which are of a long tapering shape, resembling our alabaster6 boxes in form, and ending in a full bulb.7 Our ladies quite glory in having these suspended from their fingers, or two or three of them dangling from their ears. For the purpose of ministering to these luxurious tastes, there are various names and wearisome refinements which have been devised by profuseness and prodigality; for after inventing these ear-rings, they have given them the name of "crotalia,"8 or castanet pendants, as though quite delighted even with the rattling of the pearls as they knock against each other; and now, at the present day, the poorer classes are even affecting them, as people are in the habit of saying, that "a pearl worn by a woman in public, is as good as a lictor9 walking before her." Nay, even more than this, they put them on their feet, and that, not only on the laces of their sandals, but all over the shoes;10 it is not enough to wear pearls, but they must tread upon them, and walk with them under foot as well.

Pearls used formerly to be found in our sea, but more frequently about the Thracian Bosporus;11 they were of a red colour, and small,12 and enclosed in a shell-fish known by the name of "myes." In Acarnania there is a shell-fish called "pina,"13 which produces pearls; and from this it is quite evident that it is not one kind of fish only that produces them. Juba states also, that on the shores of Arabia there is a shellfish which resembles a notched comb, and covered all over with hair14 like a sea-urchin, and that the pearl lies imbedded in its flesh, in appearance bearing a strong resemblance to a hailstone.15 No such shell-fish, however, as these are ever brought to Rome. Nor yet are anypearls of value found in Acarnania, being shapeless, rough, and of a marble hue; those are better which are found in the vicinity of Actium; but still they are small, which is the case also with those found on the coast of Mauritania. Alexander Polyhistor and Sudines16 are of opinion that as they grow old their tints gradually fade.

1 Isidorus and Solinus, however, say that the pearl is so called, because two are never found together. The derivation given by Pliny is, however, the more probable one. From the Latin "unio," comes our word "onion;" which, like the pearl, consists of numerous coats, one laid upon the other.

2 Hence we must conclude that the word "margarita" is not of Greek, but Eastern origin.

3 Ælian, Hist. Anim. B. xv. c. 8, says, that the Indian pearls, and those which come from the Red Sea, are the best.

4 The laminæ of the lapis specularis, described by Pliny, B. xxxvi. c. 45.

5 "Exaluminatos." It is clear from this passage that Pliny was acquainted with our alum, as he here clearly implies that the alum known to him was of a white colour. Beckmann, however, in his History of Inventions, asserts that our alum was certainly not known to the Greeks and Romans, and that their "alumen" was nothing else but vitriol, the green sulphate of iron, and that not in its pure state, but such as forms in mines. Pereira, however, in his Materia Medica, says, that there can be little doubt that Pliny was acquainted with our alum, but did not distinguish it from sulphate of iron, as he informs us that one kind of alum was white, and was used for dyeing wool of various colours. It is mentioned more fully in B. xxxv. c. 52, where he speaks of its use in dyeing.

6 These alabaster boxes for unguents are mentioned by Pliny in B. xxxvi. c. 12. They were usually pear-shaped; and as they were held with difficulty in the hand, on account of their extreme smoothness, they were called ἀλάβαστρα, from , "not," and λαβέσθαι, "to be held." The reader will recollect the offer made to our Saviour, of the "alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious." Matt. xxvi. 7. Mark xiv. 3.

7 Seneca, Benef. B. vii. c. 9, speaks of them as hanging in tiers from the ears of the Roman matrons, two and two; and he says that they are not satisfied unless they have two or three patrimonies suspended from each ear.

8 From their resemblance to "crotala," used by dancers, and similar to our castanets.

9 That the pearls as fully bespeak the importance of the wearer, as the lictor does of the magistrate whom he is preceding. The honour of being escorted by one or two lictors, was usually granted to the wives and other members of the imperial family.

10 Even on the "socculus," or "soccus," a shoe or slipper which did not require any "obstragulum," or tie. We find from Seneca, De Ben. B. ii. c. 12, and Pliny, B. xxxvii. c. 6, that Caligula wore gold and pearls upon his socculi.

11 Æian, Hist. Anim. B. xv. c. 8, states to this effect from Juba.

12 They are found also, Ajasson says, at the present day, in some of the coldest rivers and torrents of Auvergne.

13 Or "pinna," the Greek name of this kind of pearl oyster.

14 Cuvier remarks, that he is here probably speaking of some spiny bivalve, perhaps the Spondylus of Linnæus.

15 "Grandini." But Hardouin thinks, and probably correctly, that the meaning here of the word is the "measles of swine;" for Androsthenes, in Athenæus, B. iii., has a similar passage, in which he says: "The stone (i. e. pearl) grows in the flesh of the shell-fish, just as the measles grow in the flesh of swine."

16 He is also mentioned in B. xxxvi. c. 12, and B. xxxvii. cc. 9, 11, 23, 35, and 50, as a writer on gems; but nothing else seems to be known of him.

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