Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens.”
Once thought to be the tears of mermaids, pearls have been one of the world's most prized of gems for their beauty, luster, and rarity. Less than 1 in every 10,000 wild oysters contain a pearl. Scottish pearls, from freshwater mussels, have been prized since the time of Julius Caesar and are found in both the Scottish and English crown jewels. Roman historian Suetonius refers to Julius Caesar's preference for British pearls as one of his main reasons for invading the country! The most common color for pearls is white, cream or gray, but they also come in colors such as purple, black, pink, green, champagne, chocolate, blue and lavender. Some pearls have stunning overtones that exhibit multicolors.
The Pearl Strathspey
The month of June is long associated with pearls (along with the moonstone and alexandrite).
Pearls are found in seven basic shapes and a variety of colors and lusters.
According to an ancient Egyptian legend, Cleopatra dissolved a pearl in wine and drank it to prove her love and power for Marc Antony, showing him that she could consume the wealth of a nation in a matter of minutes.
The tradition of brides wearing pearls on their wedding day comes from the ancient belief associating the gem is believed with purity and beauty. The Ancient Greeks believed that pearls were the tears of the gods, while Chinese traditions speak of a mermaid’s ability to weep tears of pearl.
Traditional wedding folkore opines that if a bride wears pearls, she will not cry on her own wedding day.
Scottish river pearls (or baroque pearls) have been coveted since the time of Julius Caesar. The Scottish Crown Jewels housed in Edinburgh castle are set with these Scottish pearls from river mussels.
These freshwater pearls are not generally rounded. But the Abernethy pearl, one of the world's most famous large pearls, came from a Unio Margaretifera mussel, found by William Abernethy in 1967 in the River Tay, and is perfectly round and large (comparable to the size of a marble) and lustrous.
Since 1998 the mussel that produces the Scottish pearl, has been awarded special protection status as it has been overfished, and its habitat has been seriously diminished.
For more on the famous Abernethy pearl and other pearls of note, click the cache of pearls below.