The pearl. So simple, yet so beautiful in it’s simplicity. When I was a child, it seemed all moms wore strands of white pearls. I know mine certainly did. It was the “Jackie Kennedy” days, when she set the fashion trends of those times. Thus, the Pearl brings images of a time of sophistication and class.
As I grew older, I wasn’t particularly keen for wearing jewelry. Therefore, the simplicity of this gem proved easy to accessorize with just about any wardrobe, which was a “must” for my wedding ensemble. A small set of post earrings, and beaded necklace did nicely for that special day.
The pearl’s natural beginnings are nothing short of a miracle
Just imagine. Unlike any other gemstone mined from the earth, the pearl has its own natural and organic beginnings. A mere bit of grit or parasite, accidentally trapped inside the oyster’s shell, causes the defense action from the oyster. A substance known as nacre (mother-of-pearl), wraps layer upon translucent layer around the foreign object, preventing damage to the oyster’s soft tissue. What started as a painful irritation, turns into a precious gem of great value. The pearl, born from oysters, is complete. No other gem on earth can be compared to this marvelous stone.
Historically, pearls have always been prized
Before the beginning of the 20th century, and before the onset of the “cultured pearl”, diving was the most common way of harvesting pearls. Divers manually pulled oysters from ocean floors and river bottoms, checking each individual shell for that one pearl. Not all mussels and oysters produce these gems, however. In a haul of three tons, only three or four oysters are found to have produced a perfect pearl. The round pearl is the most rare.
Therefore, throughout history, natural pearls were possessed and worn only by the elite. And, over time, the white pearl would become a symbol for purity and innocence.
Idioms and Legends
“…Don’t cast your pearls before fools,” or, “Pearls of wisdom,” stem from the Bible, adding to other idioms related to the pearl. Behind the English word ‘pearl’ is the definition, ‘pure’, communicating an understanding of great value. Beauty. Wisdom. Elegance. Unstained.
Stories and legends abound of great adventures and trials in search of the elusive gemstone. Many carry intrigue of discovery, along with greed and romance.
There is one story that shines above all others…
The Merchant’s quest
Once upon a time…there was a Merchant. This Merchant set on a world-wide journey in search of precious gemstones. He wasn’t interested in just any gemstone, but, more specifically, the rare and priceless Pearl. Only the finest of the finest would do.
The Merchant’s travels took him from one great sea to another. From great oceans to rivers the world over, he dared not rest for his quest was much too important. So important, that his own comforts were of no consequence. It was the Pearl that compelled him to persevere.
At long last, the Merchant’s sacrifices were satisfied. The Pearl of great value was found. Buried deep in the ocean bed, covered in mire and muck, the oyster’s shell gave way to it’s hidden secret. The treasure long sought for was uncovered. The Merchant, in order to claim his prize, sold all he owned, and paid the ultimate price.
The Merchant? From the parable in the gospel of Matthew, he is Jesus Christ.
Leaving behind every entitlement, his place in the heavens, his relationship with the Father God, his position worthy of all praise. Leaving all behind to become poor. Ostracized by family and friends, wandering with no place to land, ridiculed and beaten…his quest to find his priceless treasure…
You. And. Me.
Muddied and fragile, buried in the muck and mire of sin and shame, tossed about like a ship without a rudder, hardened in a shell of pain and suffering.
Our relentless Merchant, Jesus Christ, searched just for us. With purpose and determination, with blood, sweat, and tears, he purchased his sought for treasure, enduring a degrading death. Paid in full – once, for all – at the Cross. The shell is broken. The muck and mire washed away. Gone. White as snow. Cleansed by his very blood, more precious than gold –
I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
~ Psalm 40 ~