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284 Pearls.
of great wealth, but noted for gluttony, perpetrated a similar act of folly. Indeed the story runs that he not only dissolved two valuable Pearls and drank off the solution himself, but gave to each guest at his table a Pearl to be drunk in like manner. It is also recorded that a valuable Pearl was similarly destroyed by Sir Thomas Gresham, as will be explained a few pages further on. In connexion with this subject we may remind the reader that in "Hamlet," Shakespeare introduces the idea of dissolving a Pearl, or as he calls it "an Union," in a cup of wine :
"The King shall drink to Hamlet's better health, And in the cup an Union shall be thrown. Richer than that which four successive kings In Denmark's crown have worn."
Let us add that a sceptical age is disposed, not without good reason, to cast doubt upon all the old stories of Pearl drinking. Barbot, the French jeweller, having macerated a Pearl in the strongest vinegar, found that the outer layer was reduced to a gelatinous condition, while the deeper part of the Pearl remained unaffected.
The Lollia Paulina Pearls, c. A.D. 50.
In an early chapter of this work (pp. 37, 38) we
have quoted Pliny's description of the extravagant
decoration of Lollia Paulina, the wife of the Emperor
Caligula, whose parure of Pearls and Emeralds was