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Related to Pearls: Pearls Before Swine
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



formations of spherical or irregular shape formed in the bodies of certain mollusks. Pearls consist of the same material as the shells, that is, mainly of calcium carbonate. The formation of a pearl is due to a foreign body (sand particle, parasite) falling into the wall of the mantle or between the mantle and the shell; nacre is then deposited around it.

Pearls are white, rose, yellowish, or sometimes black; their size varies from microscopic to that of a pigeon’s egg. A large and regularly shaped pearl is valued very highly (the largest pearl, weighing 34 carats, is believed to have belonged to the Spanish king Philip II). Pearls are obtained mainly from pearl oysters, whose shells have beautiful mother-of-pearl. Marine pearls are gathered in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf and off the shores of Ceylon, Australia, Japan, and Venezuela. Freshwater pearls have long been gathered in Russia, Scotland, Germany, China, and North American countries.

Because of its decorative properties—its smooth mat surface and soft iridescent sheen—the pearl has long been used by jewelers, often combined with precious stones and metals, to make necklaces, signet rings, brooches, and other jewelry (in India for many centuries before Christ, in Japan probably from the sixth century A.D. , and in Western Europe from the 15th and 16th centuries). In Russia, from the llth and 12th centuries and particularly in the 15th–18th centuries, decorative pearl embroidery was used widely to ornament linen, silk, brocade, and velvet and to beautify articles used in church and the ceremonial dress of the tsar, the nobles and the people.

The fall in natural supply and the great demand for pearls has led, in the 20th century, to their artificial cultivation on a large scale (mainly in Japan). Small mother-of-pearl spheres are inserted into the mantles of marine pearl oysters to serve as the foundations of future pearls.


Ivanov, A. V. Promyslovye vodnye bespozvonochnye. Moscow, 1955.
lakunina, L. I. Russkoe shit’e zhemchugom. Moscow, 1955.
Zorina, I. P. “Zhemchug.”Priroda, 1967, no. 6.
Hermann, F. Les Gemmes et les perles dans le monde. Paris, 1949.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
On taking the bearings, I knew that we were nearing the island of Ceylon, the pearl which hangs from the lobe of the Indian Peninsula.
"Sir," said Conseil, "would you give us some details of the pearl fishery?"
"My worthy Ned," I answered, "to the poet, a pearl is a tear of the sea; to the Orientals, it is a drop of dew solidified; to the ladies, it is a jewel of an oblong shape, of a brilliancy of mother-of-pearl substance, which they wear on their fingers, their necks, or their ears; for the chemist it is a mixture of phosphate and carbonate of lime, with a little gelatine; and lastly, for naturalists, it is simply a morbid secretion of the organ that produces the mother-of-pearl amongst certain bivalves."
"Mapuhi has found a pearl. Never was there a pearl like it ever fished up in Hikueru, nor anywhere in the Paumotus, nor anywhere in all the world.
"It is a nice pearl. I will give you credit on the books."
If, when I get to Tahiti, the pearl sells well, I will give you credit for another hundred--that will make three hundred.
How soon -- with what strange rapidity, indeed did Pearl arrive at an age that was capable of social intercourse beyond the mother's ever-ready smile and nonsense-words!
Pearl felt the sentiment, and requited it with the bitterest hatred that can be supposed to rankle in a childish bosom.
At home, within and around her mother's cottage, Pearl wanted not a wide and various circle of acquaintance.
My eyes fell with the rest, but no pearl was there; only the contents of our pockets--our watches, pocket-books, pencils, penknives, cigarette cases--lay on the shiny table along with the revolvers already mentioned.
Thereupon Raffles prayed to be allowed to smoke one, and, when his prayer was heard, observed that the pearl had been on the table much longer than the cigarettes.
"Put the pearl in the safe, Watson," said he, "and get out the papers of the Conk-Singleton forgery case.