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Ch. 8: Margarita, Pearl

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MARGARITA.                                261
to, and often snaps off their fingers : and some are thus killed immediately. But all who put in the hand trans­versely, easily pull away the shells from the rocks."
These same authorities Pliny seems to have followed in his account (ix. 53) of the formation of the Pearl : merely adding that the impregnation was produced by the dews of heaven falling into the open shells at the breeding time ; an essential point evidently omitted by Athenaeus from his abstract of the passage in Isidorus. The quality of the Pearl varied according to that of the dew imbibed, being lustrous if that was pure ; dull, if it were foul. Cloudy weather spoilt the colour, lightning stopped the growth, but thunder made the shell-fish miscarry altogether, and eject hollow husks called physemata (bubbles). He adds that Taprobane (Ceylon) was then, as until lately, the seat of the most productive fishery. Pliny remarks the forma­tion of Pearls out of numerous concentric layers (multiplici constant cute), and hence properly concludes them to be mere callosities formed in the body of the fish. In fact the pearl is only a concretion of the matter lining the shell that accumulates upon some foreign body accidentally introduced into the shell (usually a grain of sand), for the purpose of preventing the irritation its roughness would otherwise occasion to the tender inmate.*
Those of hemispherical form were called Tympania (tambourines) : the shells to which some were firmly attached were preserved in this condition to serve the Roman fair ones for perfume-holders. There was a story that the shoals of pearl-oysters had a king distinguished
Ch. 8: Margarita, Pearl Page of 377 Ch. 8: Margarita, Pearl
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