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piece of metal shaped in quatrefoil form; with the eighteenth century the quatrefoil became a circular ring (see also Chopine and Clog). The pattens worn in Turkey, Persia and Arab countries had a similar purpose; they were also worn in the Turkish baths to keep the feet dry. These kub-kobs, as they are termed, were of carved wood soles on curving supports, inlaid all over in geometrical patterns using stones and mother-of-pearl. A broad decorative strap held the foot in the patten. Pearl Pearls are the result of a nacreous concretion of peculiar lustre formed inside the shell of certain molluscs, notably the pearl oyster and pearl mussel. Natural pearls are caused by pathological processes set in train by the introduction ofan irritant. Such irritants vary but might consist of seaweed, a grain of sand or any piece of foreign matter which, when introduced into the shell, irritates the mollusc and activates the secretion of nacreous matter. The best natural pearls, as well as mother-of-pearl, are produced by the pearl oyster which is found in tropical seas all over the world. The ancient civilizations fished for pearls chiefly in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. The pearl mussel is a river mollusc found in the mountain streams of temperate climates in the northern hemisphere; British pearls were valued, especially from Scotland in Roman Britain. The cultivated or cultured pearl is produced by introducing an irritant into the shell of the mollusc and so stimulating the secretion of nacreous substance. As long ago as the thirteenth century the Chinese discovered a means of introducing such irritants into the river pearl mussel. They used pellets of mud or tiny fragments of bone or wood, a process still extensively practised. It was the Japanese who experimented on such a process for the pearl oyster. Research into pearl cultivation was begun in 1891 by Mikinioto in Japan and this proved successful. Since then the Japanese have bred oysters for their health and strength, keeping them in cages in the sea to protect them from predators. They are nurtured from spawn and operated on at three years old; seven years later the pearls are harvested. Artificial pearls were first made in Europe in 1680 by the Frenchman Jacquin in Paris. A preparation made from the silvery scales of a small river fish called the bleak was introduced into hollow spheres of thin glass and the centre filled with white wax. A number of different processes are now used to produce quan- tities of imitation pearls which were at their height of twentieth-century fashion in the 1930s. Pearls have always been desired as decoration for costume in jewellery and embroideries. Seed pearls, that is very small pearls often irregular in shape and, therefore, not of great value, were used in great amounts particularly in sixteenth and nine- teenth century embroidery of costume and accessories.
| © Ragnar Torfason|
2006 March 28