My mouth was open like a clam
pearl on my tongue
waiting to offer up
all that had settled there.
A grain of sand
turned over in my mouth
every time I looked at you and smiled,
but stayed silent.
A minefield relationship,
and now I'm walking away
trying not to blow either of us to bits.
Both of my books on gemstones call pearls a gem; in fact, one of the earliest-known gems, since they do not require cutting or polishing like gemstones that are actual rocks. Pearls are primarily calcium carbonate (the same stuff as in some antacids) and can be made by oysters, mussels, clams, abalones and other mollusks both saltwater and freshwater. (Not all mollusks' pearls are as iridescent as gem pearls, though.)

Pearls have been harvested as far back as anyone knows, but the process of making cultured pearls was invented in 1893 by Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan. Cultured pearls are produced by the animals in the same way as natural pearls, but they are started off by a person inserting a mother-of-pearl bead into the oyster. This process met with resistance from gem buyers at first, but now the majority of pearls available for sale are cultured. (Natural pearls are much more expensive.)

Pearls are valued on their luster, their size, their shape, their surface, and their color. Pearl sizes are measured in millimeters across, and their weight is expressed in grains. Pearls come in all sorts of colors; the most valuable are white, cream, rose, and black (and sometimes pearls are dyed to try and achieve these colors).

Pearl jewelry is quite delicate (the layer that makes the iridescence and color is often less than a millimeter thick). Don't allow them to come in contact with chemicals such as hairspray and don't store them where other jewelry can scratch their surface. It's also a good idea to have a pearl necklace restrung every few years.

Now is an excellent time to purchase pearls. Freshwater pearl farms in China are producing pearls which rival saltwater Japanese Akoya cultured pearls in shape, size, luster and color, at a fraction of the cost. Cultured pearls were known to be produced as far back as the thirteenth century when Buddhist monks would place little buddhas inside mollusks to make blister pearls. When mass-produced cultured pearls first entered the market in 1916 (Mikimoto's first patent for cultured pearls in 1896 never resulted in mass-production) and could compete with natural pearls they were considered inferior because they were not naturally occurring. However the demand in the industry quickly took up the slack making Mr. Mikimoto, the eater of two pearls a day for life, a very wealthy man. Now you'll pay thousands for a decent saltwater cultured pearl strand, let alone a Mikimoto. Tiffany's didn't even start to carry cultured pearls until 1956! It's my contention that the same thing will happen with freshwater pearls as they continue to produce more competitive quality pearls. The freshwater pearl industry is becoming more adept at quickly producing large semi-round to off-round pearls, baroque and circular pearls...not the puny seed or rice pearls that you would have associated with freshwater years ago. Today, larger freshwater pearls are usually produced by placing mantle tissue into the bivalve mollusk, and are therefore almost all nacre, more than cultured saltwater pearls, which are seeded with mother of pearl beads. Nacre is produced by calcium carbonate, the solution secreted by the mollusk to cover the irritating element. The pearl farmers will turn the pearls for balance and shape desired. Because freshwater pearls grow about three to four times faster than saltwater (due to the warmer waters), thicker nacre on freshwater is the norm, versus saltwater, where the nacre is generally only a half millimeter to a millimeter thick. Thicker nacre equals higher lustre.

Freshwater pearls come naturally in cream, white, lavender and rose. Freshwater pearls do not come naturally in any black, gray, blue, silver or green. Only Tahitian, South Sea or abalone pearls are these colors naturally, so don't be taken. Freshwater pearls being produced today can be very large and rival these Tahitians in quality and it is sometimes very difficult to tell the difference - price is the only indicator. The pearls are irradiated to achieve these colors (just like blue topaz, for example), though they are gorgeous and stable. Be sure to take your skin tone into account when selecting the color of your pearls.

I absolutely adore pearls. All told I have about a dozen strands of pearls, many rings, pendants and pearl drop earrings and I continue to collect them. (If you are interested in finding a good pearl dealer, eBay has a few.) Despite what the darling Miss Holly Golightly says, they are NOT just for old women any more. Pearls which have real character, i.e. baroque, potato, semi-round and circular pearls in a variety of colors have such texture and light play. I have come to find traditional 8 mm round white pearls to be yawningly boring in comparison, and don't do a thing to get rid of my mean reds.

The nickname of Janis Joplin; the name for her 'red hot mama' rock star persona rather than her blueswoman one.

It was also her fourth and last studio album; she died on October 4th, 1970 of a heroin overdose while in the middle of recording and the album was released posthumously in 1971. It shot to number one in America and contained her only number one single, Me and Bobby McGee. It was recorded with the Full Tilt Boogie Band, and the copyright is held by Sony Music (Columbia Records/Legacy, who actually released it, are part of Sony).

The track listing is as follows:

Bonus tracks on the remastered version:

A delicious brand of beer made in Texas. Originally brewed in San Antonio, Pearl was bought by Strohs and Strohs was bought by Miller. Pearl is now brewed by Miller in Fort Worth, TX and is just as tasty as ever. Owing to their Texas roots, Pearl and Pearl Light (only 68 calories) are excellent warm weather beverages.

The English tutor at my college asked me about black pearls today and that spurred me to do a little research.

Apparently, pearls are used for medicinal purposes as well as cosmetic. Their medicinal properties are mostly regarded in traditional Chinese medicine, which suggests that powderded pearl can be ingested to treat conditions like epilepsy and insomnia and are also used to improve vision. Pearls have been shown to improve bone density, whiten teeth, reduce inflammation, calm nerves, and improve complexion.

I'll bet you're all like, "But Rob, pearls are freakin' expensive! Can people actually afford to have them ground into powder to be used as a dietary supplement?!"

The answer is simple, my lad. Only about thirty percent of cultured pearls are considered high enough quality to be used in jewelry. The rest are sold real cheap to low quality jewelry manufacturers and to druggists (do they still call them druggists? Maybe I should've said pharmacists?) These low quality pearls are still the same thing as better pearls, only they have different shapes and such. Some are half sphere, teardrop shaped, dented, etc.

So, there you have it! I now know more about pearls than I ever had imagined I could, all because a woman I work with just heard about black pearls.

There's a crack - a crack in everything. That's where the light gets in.
--Leonard Cohen

Pearl is a 14th-century religious dream poem of 1212 lines found in the same manuscript as the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, along with Cleanness (which is on cleanliness) and Patience (about Jonah). The manuscript in which the poem survives is known as Cotton Nero A.x, so called because it came from Sir Robert Cotton's legendary library, in which manuscripts took their shelf mark from the emperor's bust on the top of their shelf, viz. Beowulf at Cotton. Vitellius A xv. Other Cotton manuscripts include the Magna Carta and the Doomsday Book. All the Cotton manuscripts are now property of the British Library. Pearl is titled arbitrarily, as are all the poems in the Gawain manuscript. Authorship is similarly unknown. We assume a single author for all four texts (I think people have done stylistic and metric analysis) and we refer to this author as 'the Gawain poet' because that is just how little we know about them. Except that they came from the West Midlands.

The poem is very structurally sophisticated indeed. The 1212 lines are made up of 101 stanzas of 12 lines each, and is in alliterative metre: this means that at least one alliteration occurs in line across the caesura. The stanzas are in nineteen groups of five and one group of six. There's also a rhyme scheme: a b a b a b a b b c b c. To give you an example of how the text looks, here is the first stanza:

Perle, pleasaunte to prynces paye
To clanly clos in golde so clere,
Oute of oryent, I hardyly saye,
Ne proued I neuer her precios pere.
So rounde, so reken in vche araye,
So smal, so smoþe her syde3 were,
Quere-so-euer I jugged gemme3 gaye,
I sette hyr sengeley in synglere.
Allas! I leste hyr in on erbere;
Þur3 gresse to grounde hit fro me yot.
I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere
Of þat pryuy perle wythouten spot.
If I were to take some liberties for clarity's sake and not worry about the rhyming or the alliteration, this would be, roughly:
Pearl, most pleasant to a prince's pay,
To cleanly enclose in gold so clear
Out of the Orient, I hardly dare to say,
Was never found her precious peer.
So round, so rich in such array,
So small, so smooth her sides were,
Where-so-ever I found gems so gay
I set her above in singularity.
Alas! I lost her in this garden!
From grass to ground it from me got.
I pine, wracked with heart-sickness
For that precious pearl without spot.

As you can see, some lines read easily to the modern eye, some less so. Knowing that the thorn character, Þ/þ, is pronounced 'th' helps: thus 'smoþe' is 'smothe' - or 'smooth'. Each of the poem's twenty stanza groupings has a link word. Though there are exceptions, this word appears at the start and end of each 12-line stanza, and then at start of the next grouping. So 'spot' is the first link word, and appears at line 61, the first line of the second section as 'Fro spot my spyryt þer sprang in space;'. For similar techniques, see John Donne's The Wreath. Also, the last section's word, 'paye', appears in the first line. See what he's done there? Over each section the link word is made to work pretty hard, and each takes on a multivalent fertility as another facet of the poem's subject.

So what is the poem's subject? Reading between the lines, the poem is a lament by a father for his lost daughter. She was lost to him, we learn, when only two years old. Whilst he is mourning his loss, he falls asleep on a grassy knoll where we can assume that his daughter is buried and begins to dream. In his dream he is transported to an extraordinary garden - blue trees with pearlescent leaves. He comes to a river and on the other side of it glimpses an extraordinarily beautiful woman, the Pearl Maiden, whom he realises, eventually, is his grown-up daughter and a bride of Christ. He desires her in peculiar terms, not least of which emotionally, epistemologically and, until he realises that he is her father there is some aesthetic admiration that just avoids eroticisation.

She does not go easy on her old man, and spends her time rebuking him for his ignorance. She teaches him about sin, atonement and the risen life and eventually shows him in a dream-within-a-dream vision the city of Jerusalem, fantastically adorned with diamonds, jaspers, onyx and sapphires. In it the Lamb of Christ, still with his pierced side on display and bleeding, marches - with his 144000 maidens march triumphantly. Now that's big pimpin'. The relevant passage in Revelations is specific about the number of maidens involved. To be honest, the maiden is pretty harsh to her dad, who loves her and wants her back and cannot understand that she is risen and saved (withouten spot) and that he is not: that it is he who is lost, not her. After his vision, he is overcome with longing for the Maiden and plunges into the river to cross and reach her. As he enters the water, he falls into wakefulness at resolves to take communion and devote all that he has to the Lord, giving 'precious perle3 vnto his pay'.

So. A pearl is a beautiful, impenetrable, unseeable object - formed around a piece of grit. This poem, with its perfectly flawed numerology, is like that: the dreamer's mistake, his misunderstanding in trying to cross the river to his daughter, is his salvation in that it permits him a life of godliness. I haven't even touched on the allegorical signifances of the Maiden or on - the extraordinary beauty of this poem. Don't get me wrong - it's a very smart poem and someone at the top of their craft produced this, and I am just holding back from the Henry James comparison paragraph. But more than cleverness, Pearl reverberates with a powerfully felt loss. The poem's faith isn't unempathetic: it insists on the necessity of pain and meditation to growth and to humanity. The poem speaks more clearly about grief and redemption than you would think over its distance of seven hundred years.

Go and buy the beautiful edition just published by Victor Watts. It has gold flypapers - clanly clos in gold so clere.

PEARL is a common first aid acronym. It stands for:




Responsive to


Generally while assessing a patient who has a suspected head injury, an assessment of the pupils' size and responsiveness to light with respect to each other can indicate the severity of the injury. A person who had PEARL is unlikely to have suffered severe brain trauma or succumb to increasing intracranial pressure whereas a person with brain trauma's pupils will often be oddly dilated or each eye will respond differently to light.

Saltwater pearls occur mostly along the coast of India, in the Persian Gulf, and in the Red Sea, and are produced by oysters. Freshwater pearls occur in lakes and rivers and are produced by mussels. Oysters can produce only one pearl at a time, while mussels can produce many.



The chemical formulas of conchiolin and calcium carbonate are C30H48O11N9 and CaCO3, respectively. Combined, they are an organic/inorganic compound known as nacre, or mother-of-pearl.

Nacre is 95% calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate exists within pearls as hexagonal plates roughly half a micrometer thick, a crystalline formation known as aragonite. Nacre is iridescent because the thickness of aragonite crystals is close to the wavelength of visible light.

A brittle ceramic on its own, aragonite lays between fibrous layers of conchiolin. Calcium carbonate assumes the form of aragonite rather than calcite, which represents the bulk of sea shells, because concholin is ionic. This chemical-structural interaction generates impressive strength and is distantly similar to the curing of man-made epoxies. Fossil nautiloid shells unearthed in Oklahoma continue to interfere with light.

Concholin is secreted along with other proteins from the mantles of various mollusks. Concholin is chamber-shaped, enclosing and bonding with aragonite. Functionally, nacre is a kind of permanent mucus; the vast majority of this world's natural pearls are thinly-veneered and expelled shell fragments. The sizeable, round hanks of nacre occasionally produced by oysters are the results of years of uniform irritation. An x-rayed pearl looks like a tree's growth rings.



Despite its relative strength, nacre has experienced almost no functional relationship with humanity.

A pearl dissolved in vinegar is allegedly the most expensive meal in human history, worth eight figures in 2014 US Dollars. This, because of an impromptu wager between Cleopatra and Mark Antony to, well, consume the most expensive meal possible. We're told that Mark Antony could not bring himself to drink. To unfurl every subtext of that act is perhaps beyond my ken, but I can tell you Egypt was Rome's client state in those days, and that Cleo herself stood on an inbred, comparatively incompetent royal bloodline.

Pearls' value in the ancient world is hard to overstate. All cultures with coastline access treasured them obsessively. They were inconceivably rare, even near the Persian Gulf's natural oyster beds. The Koran places pearls among the most desirable objects in Paradise; Ancient Greeks, with their thousand folded miles of beach, displayed pearls at weddings, believing them to absorb love. Documentation of humans' obsession with pearls goes back 4000 years.

In the Hindu religion an appropriate wedding gift is a pearl, undrilled, along with its piercing. As with many attractive and fairly uniform substances, pearls symbolize purity. It was Krishna who discovered the first pearl. Pearls bear much emotional baggage indeed.

Pre-colonial America, North and South, enjoyed a relative abundance of freshwater pearls, and as elsewhere, they were ornamentation for weddings in particular. They were more or less gone from the hemisphere by mid-nineteenth century, being one of the first substances siphoned to Europe.



The culturing of pearls seems a shockingly recent development when one considers everything that goes into gardening, foie gras, and beer. The first cultured pearls appeared in Japan at the turn of the 20th century. Spouses Kokichi and Ume Mikimoto, and biologist Tokichi Nishikawa and carpenter Tatsuhei Mise, each wrapped a grain of sand in oyster epithelial membrane and put the assembly into an oyster.

The Nishikawa/Mise pair won the patent first. The Mise-Nishikawa Method continues to be synonymous with the culturing of pearls. Because Mise took the extra step of patenting a grafting needle, the Mikimiotos were unable to use the Mise-Nishikawa method without invalidating their own patents (they had patented the use of epithelial tissue wrapped around an irritant only). In 1916, the spouses seized upon a technicality, patenting a method to produce round pearls, and Mise and Nishikawa fell into obscurity. Kokichi Mikimoto thenceforth enjoyed a reputation as showman and pest to gem firms and governments.

Today's cultured saltwater pearls are nucleated with, oddly enough, shell bands from American mussels. This was Kokichi's discovery, a result of much trial-and-error. The culturing and inclusion of pearls in jewelry still requires much; thousands of pearls must be sorted through for a single necklace, and drilling requires a machinist's precision and finesse.

Oysters are nucleated at three years of age and hang from rafts suspended in the ocean. Time spent hanging, between one and three years, is determined by the size of pearl desired. Harvest is in Winter. Cultured saltwater pearls are mostly mussel shell with a thin layer of nacre. Freshwater pearls, meanwhile, are all nacre (tissue only is used,) and are more easily induced. Round pearls are the obvious preference in any case, but different shapes can be built around different nuclei.

A pearl's color is vulnerable to water temperature, diet, and mollusc breed. Even today, hatcheries cannot control or predict the colors of finished pearls. So-called "black pearls" are usually very dark blue or green; natural actually-black pearls are known to occurr around French Polynesia.

Not sure if a pearl is real? Rub it against your teeth. The aragonite crystals, smooth to your fingertips, will grate against your tooth enamel.





All About Gemstones. "Natural & Artificial Pearls: Composition & Chemistry.", 12/26/2014.

Human Touch of Chemistry. "How do Oysters Make Pearls?", 12/26/2014.

Pearl. "Composition of Pearl.", 12/26/2014.

Fred Ward, "The History of Pearls.", 12/26/2014.

American Pearl. "A Brief History of Pearls.", 12/26/2014.

Pearl Oasis. "Pearl History.", 12/26/2014.

Pearl Guide. "The History of Pearls.", 12/26/2014.

How Products are Made. "Cultured Pearl.", 12/29/2014.

Pearl (?), n.

A fringe or border.

[Obs.] --

v. t.

To fringe; to border. [Obs.] See Purl.

Pearl stitch. See Purl stitch, under Purl.


© Webster 1913.

Pearl, n. [OE. perle, F. perle, LL. perla, perula, probably fr. (assumed) L. pirulo, dim. of L. pirum a pear. See Pear, and cf. Purl to mantle.]

1. Zool.

A shelly concretion, usually rounded, and having a brilliant luster, with varying tints, found in the mantle, or between the mantle and shell, of certain bivalve mollusks, especially in the pearl oysters and river mussels, and sometimes in certain univalves. It is usually due to a secretion of shelly substance around some irritating foreign particle. Its substance is the same as nacre, or mother-of-pearl. Pearls which are round, or nearly round, and of fine luster, are highly esteemed as jewels, and compare in value with the precious stones.


Hence, figuratively, something resembling a pearl; something very precious.

I see thee compassed with thy kingdom's pearl. Shak.

And those pearls of dew she wears. Milton.


Nacre, or mother-of-pearl.

4. Zool.

A fish allied to the turbot; the brill.

5. Zool.

A light-colored tern.

6. Zool.

One of the circle of tubercles which form the bur on a deer's antler.


A whitish speck or film on the eye.




A capsule of gelatin or similar substance containing some liquid for medicinal application, as ether.

9. Print.

A size of type, between agate and diamond.

�xb5; This line is printed in the type called pearl.

Ground pearl. Zool. See under Ground. -- Pearl barley, kernels of barley, ground so as to form small, round grains. -- Pearl diver, one who dives for pearl oysters. -- Pearl edge, an edge of small loops on the side of some kinds of ribbon; also, a narrow kind of thread edging to be sewed on lace. -- Pearl eye, cataract. [R.] -- Pearl gray, a very pale and delicate blue-gray color. -- Pearl millet, Egyptian millet (Penicillaria spicata). -- Pearl moss. See Carrageen. -- Pearl moth Zool., any moth of the genus Margaritia; -- so called on account of its pearly color. -- Pearl oyster Zool., any one of several species of large tropical marine bivalve mollusks of the genus Meleagrina, or Margaritifera, found in the East Indies (especially at Ceylon), in the Persian Gulf, on the coast of Australia, and on the Pacific coast of America. Called also pearl shell, and pearl mussel. -- Pearl powder. See Pearl white, below. -- Pearl sago, sago in the form of small pearly grains. -- Pearl sinter Min., fiorite. -- Pearl spar Min., a crystallized variety of dolomite, having a pearly luster. -- Pearl white. (a) Basic bismuth nitrate, or bismuth subchloride; -- used chiefly as a cosmetic. (b) A variety of white lead blued with indigo or Berlin blue.<-- cultured pearl, a pearl grown by a pearl oyster into which a round pellet has been placed, to serve as the seed for more predictable growth of the pearl. The pellet is usually made from mother-of-pearl, and additional layers of nacre are deposited onto the seed by the oyster. Such pearls, being more easily obtained than natural pearls, are less expensive. -->


© Webster 1913.

Pearl (?), a.

Of or pertaining to pearl or pearls; made of pearls, or of mother-of-pearl.


© Webster 1913.

Pearl, v. t.


To set or adorn with pearls, or with mother-of-pearl. Used also figuratively.


To cause to resemble pearls; to make into small round grains; as, to pearl barley.


© Webster 1913.

Pearl, v. i.


To resemble pearl or pearls.


To give or hunt for pearls; as, to go pearling.


© Webster 1913.

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