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Ch. 8: Pearl Fisheries of the British Isles

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EUROPEAN PEARL FISHERIES                   167
lusterless brown, and handfuls of them sell for only a few shillings. A large percentage are of a grayish or milky color, or of a bluish white tinge; these seldom attain much value unless aided by excellence of shape and purity of skin. A few are of a dark, fiery tint and of great luster. Sometimes the pearl is, of a beautiful pink tint, sometimes of a light violet, or other exquisite shade. The fine pink ones are very rare and are highly prized. The best are those having the sweet, pure white light which constitutes the inimitable loveliness of a pearl; but few of them are found even in the most favorable seasons, and usually these are from the streams in the northeastern counties and some of the streams in the southwest. Very few combine the qualities of perfection in shape and luster; and the product of many seasons might be examined in vain to furnish enough pearls to make a well-matched necklace of gems weighing from five to ten grains each. But occasionally beautiful specimens are discovered, weighing fifteen or twenty grains or more. One found in Aberdeenshire a few years ago, perfect in shape and luster, weighed twenty-five grains, and sold at first hand for £50. Another one, found at the confluence of the Almond and the Tay in 1865, weighed thirty grains.
While most of these pearls are sold to jewelers in Edinburgh, Aber­deen, Inverness, Perth, and other towns, many of the finest specimens have gone into the possession of prominent Scotch and English fami­lies, who have a fancy for collecting them. Queen Victoria possessed a fine collection of Scotch pearls, choice specimens of many years' search, obtained almost exclusively from the Aberdeenshire waters which murmur round her beautiful Highland home. In 1907, a Scotch pearl was sold in Perth for the sum of £80 ; this was of a good luster with a bluish tint, it was spherical, measured seven sixteenths of an inch in diameter, and weighed twenty-one grains.
The falling-off in the yield of pearls in some streams is credited to a certain extent to the building of bridges and the consequent abandon­ment of fords. This is based on the theory that injury to the mollusk has something to do with the production of pearls, and that they are to be found more plentiful about fords and places where cattle drink. The theory is beautifully stated by the lamented Hugh Miller: "I found occasion to conclude that the Unio of our river-fords secretes pearls so much more frequently than the Unionidae and Anadonta of our still pools and lakes, not from any specific peculiarity in the constitu­tion of the creature, but from the effects of the habitat which it chooses. It receives in the fords and shallows of a rapid river many a rough blow from the sticks and pebbles carried down in time of flood, and occasionally from the feet of men and animals that cross the stream during droughts, and the blows induce the morbid secre-
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Kunz. The Book of the Pearl.
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