A blog by researcher Ana Vasiliu
Remember those new samples hopefully awaited at the beginning of this year? (See last month's "'Dust Pearls'.") Then, I put it in writing that there will be news of the ups and down of working with them. It so happens that there have been no ups: the post has not been delivered. There is, however, more to say. Read on…
At the time of this writing, these fresh samples of new pearl sacs are in the mail. That is to say, what I know is what you are seeing: little glinting dots of nacre pegged to orange mussel flesh (M. edulis). What I wish to see are pearls being born—truly 'dust'-sized beginnings of pearls, and the cell 'sacs' that are assumed to be making natural pearls possible. I am somewhat surprised that the beginning of pearls and of pearl sacs have not been seen yet. Read on…
This lucky shot proved impossible to reproduce, and not for lack of trying! The white vortex floating over an iridescent field, is part of the same aragonite scroll forming a phenomenal white flame pearl. It so happens that the tight core of the aragonite scroll scatters light—hence the appropriate translucent cloud-white, lower scroll sheets flare away just right for rainbow diffraction, and the mass of aragonite in between is transparent enough to all but disappear from view; you’d think of the play of light through classical 'phenomenals' in such terms—such flame patterns are one digression away. Back in the day when I had first seen such pearls, their owner, Stephen Metzler, would compare the white flame patterns with great storms (so does NASA)—naming such pearls 'badai' (storm, Malay). His best earned a title of perfection—'badai sempuna' (perfect storm).
Today, six 'storms' sit on my desk—among a handful of samples awaiting the new year—read on...
At the end of the day, pearls are stone. These two look the part more than most in my collection of samples: a British oyster turned particularly heavy with mineral overgrowth including two pearls—a classically one-sided blister raised up like a finger next to the muscle scar, and a round one encased under translucent layers of calcite. Of oyster pearls, read on...
These pearls of mine never give me just the trifling details that I am asking for. A short few sessions of various microscopy methods usually do yield some scant expected views, embedded among a terrific mass of news—all of which does matter.
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In the last post (please see the caption attached to three images on Pinctada maxima pearls—here) I wrote that finding nacreous pearls formed next to or within molluscan muscles is quite surprising, since muscles are involved in making a different kind of material to which they attach, not nacre. Of course, by 'surprising' I mean 'well worth looking into'. Now that I did look, I have found what I expected rather than anything surprising…
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There are quite a few loose ends left hanging on my blog already: things I said I will do, questions I had asked. Let me follow up with some answers to my call for an appropriately novel name for the origin of pearls and for better "muscle pearls".
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Looking forward to spending months on each pearl, years up to publication—my samples need to be natural pearls and be seen as such by random reviewers or, within reason, anyone inclined to thinking about natural pearls to the point that they'd be reading my writing. Should there be doubt, academic custom demands that reasonable doubt be stated. Truth be told, back when it all started, I had not given a second thought to this matter of natural pearl identification for my kind of scholarly use, since deciding—fairly off the cuff—to call for the most improbably anything but natural pearls for use as samples. Could pearls such as these be replicated in a controlled way...?
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You'd need green shells to make green pearls—and there aren't many candidate makers in the sands of the world, just a few species including these False Jingles (Pododesmus) from British Columbia. A few of their pearls came to me for reasons unrelated to their color, but the fine deep green of some is what keeps them on my mind more than most. They helped me make sense of an old tall tale of pearling. Read more »
What’s in a name !? Mexican natural pearls (Pteria sterna) are brought to bear on the origin of pearls…. Take a look at what these pearls enclose and coin new language. Read more »
I will be spending much of this year breaking, slicing, polishing, shooting… then labeling and shelving natural pearls. The sum total ought to amount to a hefty catalogue for the current research collection of natural pearls held at my host institute, IACT. Read more »