A little gossip about pearls

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A bit of gossip in a sales presentation is like a pinch of salt in the dish.

Whether we like it or not –

Human beings just can’t resist a little gossip. So why not make the best of it? As a professional, mixing just the right amount into a sales presentation adds flavor. If too little, the dish will be bland. If too abundant, inedible. But the right dose, like a good catch-phrase, tastes just right.

So here’s a buffet of “did you know this, madam/sir, or that…?” where you will hopefully find a little something to nibble on.

1. The term pearl comes from the Latin pernula, diminutive of perna, meaning leg, after the ham or mutton leg-shaped bivalve. That’s funny and unexpected, isn’t it?

2. The name Margaret, in its archaic form Margarita, is actually the original Latin word used to describe the secretory product of pearl oysters, which we now call pearl. Therefore, if you’re in the mood for gallantry, calling a girl named Margaret a “pearl” is more than appropriate (and clever).

3. In fact the Latin name Margarita is, semantically, the most appropriate to define the pearl: Margarita-ae comes from the Greek margaritas, which is borrowed from a verbal expression that, in Sanskrit, means “daughter of the sea”.

4. The association between “pearl, daughter of the sea” and “Aphrodite, born of the sea foam” (a myth represented in Botticelli’s famous painting “The Birth of Venus”) resulted in the strong symbolic value of pearl as an allegory of beauty, love, sensuality and passion.

No wonder there’s a fatal, archetypal attraction between women and pearls! Not only that – the sea is like a big placenta of life and the originator of women, who are in turn givers of life. They share a beautiful and common destiny. It’s anathema to those males who, deaf and blind to archetypal references, oppose the feminine longing for pearls, and consider them a useless tinsel!

5. Margaritarius was the pearl merchant, while margaritàio, in Italian, means “a worker in the glass bead factories of the Venetian Lagoon” who awaits to transform glass or enamel tubes into beads (also known as margheritine or conterie).

6. There is a tombstone of Roman/Imperial age with the commemorative inscription of a pearl merchant. The epitaph reads “L. Valerius Primus negotiator margaritarius ab Roma” (L. Valerius Primus First wholesaler of pearls from Rome). It’s situated in the lapidary garden of the Archaeological Museum of Aquileia, capital of Regio X Venetia et Histria, one of the ten most important cities in the Roman Empire (300,000 inhabitants in the Augustan period) destroyed by Attila the Hun, now a town in the province of Udine, former “mitico Nordest” – the legendary, dynamic entrepreneurial district of northeastern Italy. If I were a pearl wholesaler, I would not hesitate to prepare the same plaque and, who knows, make sure to be remembered forever!

7. The ancient Romans were literally crazy about pearls. A few examples:

Gaius Julius Caesar gave to one of his many mistresses (Servilia, mother of that Brutus who then planted a knife in Gaius Julius’s stomach) a pearl worth 6 million sesterces. Comparing purchase values, 1 sesterce today would be worth about $2.25, which means he squandered a good $13.5 million here. One could have bought half of Rome with that! What if this was, in the final analysis, the motive for the crime on that fateful Ides of March? Get rid of a crazy spendthrift and a sex maniac to boot!

Emperor Caligula, when he named his favorite horse consul of Rome, gave him a magnificent pearl necklace. The value is unknown, but considering they were all natural pearls of the Persian Gulf, it was not a small amount. Ok fine, the man was out of his mind, but what about Gaius Julius above? Apparently these guys both lost their minds at the sight of beautiful creatures.

Pompey the Great, at the end of his successful military campaigns, included among his trophies as many as 33 crowns of pearls, and a portrait head of himself, studded with pearls. This was the year 61 BC. Who needed 33 crowns? What got into Pompey, was he a “pearl-aholic”?

8. Pearl is, in fact, the oldest gem that’s known. Even better, once removed from the oyster, it’s ready-made. There is no need for processing, a prêt a porter of the good old days.

9. Elizabeth I, Queen of England, would go around lavished with kilos of pearls, so much so that the almost contemporary historian Horace Walpole said “she looked like an idol totally composed of pearls and necklaces…” So much, in fact, that her king(?)dom became known as “the age of pearls.”

I wonder if Freud would say her lifelong lust for pearls was the transference of another type of lust – seeing as how this royal virago was famous for her brave, stubborn, unyielding abstinence.

And there you have it –

A little gossip about pearls. Hopefully you found just the right pinch for your dish.

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Luigi Costantini

Dr. Luigi Costantini is a pioneer in Italy’s gemological landscape and a leader in the European gem and jewelry industry. He established IGI's School of Gemology in Italy in 1998 and was instrumental in its development and expansion throughout the country. He remains honorary president of IGI Italy.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Alberto

    Nice lineup of Gossip, Luigi!! love this!!

  2. John

    This is a topic that’s near to my heart… Take care!

  3. Sharon

    I loved this❤️Very interesting. I did my pearl grading course at IGI in Antwerp .

  4. Luciano

    Sempre interessante Luigi! Grazie.

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