myrrh to open its valves. The men used a pin to make a hole in the oyster
letting out a liquid which was then poured into an iron mould where it
solidified into a pearl. (3: p. 240).
There were many skillful artisans and learned men among the ancient
Greeks but it is doubtful that they ever produced any pearls by this method.
If they possessed the secret of inducing oysters to yield pearls, that
knowledge disappeared with their ancient glory. Only the Chinese, in their
quiet unassuming fashion, perpetuated the method which was revealed by the
researches of Ye-jin-Yang nearly 700 years ago.
The Chinese induce the mussels to decorate many odd trinkets for
them. One of these is a pearl image of the seated Buddha. The method is
simple. The image is first cast in thin lead or stamped from tin. The valves of a
mussel are then opened with a spatula and the matrices are inserted by means
of a forked bamboo stick. The mussels are then placed in shallow pools,
watered by canals. A barrel of soil thrown in now and then, provides food for
the mussels which complete their allotted task of coating the image with pearl
in two or three years. Great quantities of these images are sold each year at the
ancient city of Soo-chow, the "Venice of China," which has a nine-storied
pagoda overlooking its twisting waterways and arched bridges. (1)
The Chinese also produce many other pearl trinkets and the
matrices for these are either of prepared mud, wood, brass, or even of
bone. In order to secure as high yield as possible several such matrices
are placed on both valves of the mussel which, when its task is faithfully
performed, is itself sold as food. (1)