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Ch. 16: Famous Pearls and Collections
450 THE BOOK OF THE PEARL
The historian Procopius,
of the sixth century, tells of a magnificent pearl which belonged to Peroz, or Firuz (459-484), one of the Sassanian kings of Persia. In the course of his disastrous battle with the White Huns, in which both he and his sons perished, Peroz, having a presentiment of the misfortune about to befall him, took the pearl from his right ear and cast it away, lest any one should wear it after him. This pearl is described as being "such as no king had ever worn up to that time." Procopius, however, thinks it more probable that the ear of Peroz was cut off in the combat, and he states that the emperor (Zeno, 426-491) was very anxious to buy the gem from the Huns, but that all search for it was in vain. Nevertheless, a rumor was current that it was recovered later, but that another pearl was substituted for it and sold to Kobad, a successor of Peroz. A different version is given by Panciroli,
who quotes Zonaras, a Byzantine historian of the twelfth century, as his authority. According to this version Justinian the Great, who succeeded to the throne forty-three years after the death of Peroz, offered one hundred pounds of gold (about $25,000) for the pearl, but the barbarians refused to part with it, preferring to keep it as a memorial of Persian folly. On the coins of Peroz he is represented wearing an earring with three pendants, one of which may have been this wonderful pearl.
Charles the Bold.
One of the greatest jewels of the fifteenth century was that belonging to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1433-1477). According to notes and drawings
made in 1555 by J. J. Fugger of Nuremberg, who was the banker jeweler of his generation, this consisted of a large pyramid diamond five eighths of an inch square at the base, with the apex cut as a four-rayed star in relief ; surrounding this were three rectangular pyramid-shaped rubies and three magnificent pear-shaped pearls, and a large ovate pearl was suspended from the lowest ruby. The pear pearls are described as measuring half an inch in diameter and must have weighed about sixty grains each. This magnificent jewel was probably the most celebrated in Europe during the fifteenth century. According to Comines, on the defeat of the Grand Duke and the plundering of his baggage by the Swiss at Granson in 1476, the ornament was found by a careless soldier who tossed it away, but retained the gold box containing it. On second thought, he searched for and recovered the jewel and sold it to a priest for one florin, and the ecclesiastic sold it to a Bernese govern-
I, c. 4, ed. Niebuhr, Bonnae, 1833.
' Panciroli, "Rerum Memorabilium, libri duo," Frankfort, 1660, Pt. I, p. 44. We have been unable to find this statement in the An-
nals of Zonaras; it was possibly derived from some gloss or annotation.
* Published by Lambeccius in "Bibliotheca Caesarea," Vol. II, p. 516.
Table Of Contents
Kunz. The Book of the Pearl.
Contents & Introduction
: Pearls Amongst the Ancients
: Medieval and Modern History of Pearls
: Origin of Pearls
: Structure and Forms of Pearls
: Sources of Pearls
: Pearl Fisheries of the Persian Gulf
: East African Pearl Fisheries
: Pearl Fisheries of the British Isles
: Pearl Fisheries of the South Sea Islands
: Pearl Fisheries of Venezuela & the Americas
: Pearl Culture & Pearl Farming
: Mystical & Medicinal Properties of Pearls
: Value & Commerce of Pearls
: Treatment and Care of Pearls
: Pearls as Used in Ornaments & Decoration
: Famous Pearls and Collections
: Pearls, Aboriginal Use & Discovery in Mound Graves
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