Beyond Price: Pearls and Pearl-fishing : Origins to the Age of Discoveries, Volume 224

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American Philosophical Society, 1998 - Philosophy - 448 pages
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Man has been intrigued by the origin of pearls, sensitive to their beauty, & convinced of their medicinal value for at least five millennia. A mixture of folklore & observation preceded the earliest scientific inquiries. Fishing & trade commenced in southern Asia, between India & Sri Lanka & around the Persian Gulf. In Western & Central Europe, Inner Asia & China, & North America, freshwater pearls were probably known & treasured before those of marine origin. R.A. Donkin combines written sources with the results of archaeological & philological research. A refined nomenclature lends support to other evidence pointing to long familiarity, & etymologically related words for 'pearl'- reflecting former trading connections or colonization. Pearls were prominent among the luxury products which, for many centuries, the West associated with the legendary East & South; conversely, the Chinese looked to the West & South. From the opening of the Age of Discoveries & for the next two & a half centuries marine pearls were high among the objectives of expeditions to the eastern & western Tropics. The often remote centers of demand were affluent & culturally advanced societies where dealers & purchasers exercised fine judgment in matters of shape & color & iridescence, as they continue to do today. Beyond Price: Pearls & Pearl-Fishing, organized both chronologically & by region is called by reviewer, James Parsons, "the crowning achievement of a world-class scholar....The folklore regarding pearls has created an endlessly imaginative literature, here analyzed meticulously." The book is enhanced with over 100 maps & illustrations.

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