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The Legend of Cleopatra and the Pearl

Posted on January 11, 2018 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

The Legend of Cleopatra and the Pearl

Accounts of Cleopatra VII’s (69-30 BCE) enchanting life story abound, but the story most likely to pique the interest of jewelry lovers involves a rather large and valuable pearl that the beautiful queen apparently drank!

According to the story, Cleopatra bet her lover Marc Antony that she could spend 10 million sesterces on one meal. To prove herself (while showing off her opulence), she removed one of her earrings, which apparently contained one of two of the largest pearls known in the land, dissolved it in vinegar, and then drank it.

In the words of Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 A.D.), “She ordered the second course to be served. In accordance with previous instructions, the servants placed in front of her only a single vessel containing vinegar. She took one earring off, and dropped the pearl in the vinegar, and when it was wasted away, swallowed it.” And the bet was won.

Until recently, this story was thought to be mere myth, but research indicates that this trick is actually possible.

"All you need is vinegar and a pearl. In my experiments, I used a white vinegar sold in supermarkets. Wine vinegar was most common in the Greco-Roman world, so it is likely that's what Cleopatra used," classicist Prudence Jones of Montclair State University explained to Discovery News. The acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate in the pearl and produces calcium acetate, water, and carbon dioxide. Interestingly, the cocktail wouldn’t taste as acidic as straight vinegar because the calcium carbonate somewhat neutralizes the acid in the vinegar.

The effect isn’t instantaneous, however. It takes roughly “24 to 36 hours to dissolve a pearl weighing approximately one gram.” The end result is a translucent gel-like substance.

Adrienne Mayor, a research scholar at Stanford University's Departments of Classics and History of Science, suggests that the myth—and its plausibility—may give us insight into the kind of clever character Cleopatra was:

The Legend of Cleopatra and the Pearl

“I think this research has convincingly demonstrated the technique that Cleopatra could have used to dissolve a pearl. We already know that this curious, intelligent queen carried out toxicological experiments," Mayor told Discovery News. "It's likely she softened the pearl in advance, then crushed it and placed it in a goblet to dazzle Marc Antony with her wealth and arcane scientific expertise.”

 

You may also like—The Origins of Crystal Healing

 

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in history, jewelry lore, jewelry stories, pearls

Four Pieces of “Smart” Jewelry You Don’t Want to Miss

Posted on June 01, 2017 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

Although it may seem like Apple Watches and FitBits dominate the smart jewelry scene, those two companies certainly aren’t your only options when it comes to the marriage of technology and accessories.

Whether you’d like to track your fitness, stay on top of notifications by the minute, or store special messages and photos from a loved one, there’s a beautiful piece of smart jewelry for you. The following are just four of the chic and innovative pieces that can help you seamlessly integrate fashion and organization. 

1. Ringly

Four Pieces of “Smart” Jewelry You Don’t Want to Miss | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Ringly produces cocktail rings as well as pendants and bangles—and they’re all smart. Ringly can track your activity levels and communicate those with your phone via Bluetooth technology. Using Ringly’s app, you can program your Ringly device to notify you if you get a notification on your phone (and you can choose the kind of notifications you receive). The jewelry will subtly vibrate when you receive one of these notifications. 

2. Altrius

Four Pieces of “Smart” Jewelry You Don’t Want to Miss | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Like Ringly, Altrius smart jewelry can “buzz” you when you receive certain notifications on your phone.  The brand explains that by “reducing smartphone” dependance (i.e. not checking your phone every few minutes for notifications), you’ll reduce your daily stress and feel more in charge of your time. (That sounds like a pretty good deal!)

3. Bellabeat Leaf

Four Pieces of “Smart” Jewelry You Don’t Want to Miss | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Love being in touch with your body? A Bellabeat Leaf attaches to your lapel or a special bracelet and monitors your heart rate, sleep patterns, and menstrual cycles; stores the info on your phone via Bluetooth; and even provides fitness recommendations through its app. Bellabeat has a six-month battery and a 14-day memory. 

Galatea Momento Pearls—Pearl Jewelry that Speaks

Four Pieces of “Smart” Jewelry You Don’t Want to Miss | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

Four Pieces of “Smart” Jewelry You Don’t Want to Miss | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Blog

These stunning pearl pieces are unlike most pieces of smart jewelry. Instead of using Bluetooth technology, they use near-field communication (NFC). Each Galatea Momento Pearl piece contains an NFC chip that houses photos and recorded messages. These can be accessed by tapping the jewelry against an NFC-enabled phone. No special app required.

Do you wear smart jewelry?

You may also be interested in: What Are the Different Types of Opals?

 

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Photos: Respective Brands

Posted in fun, jewelry trends, pearls, smart jewelry, technology, Trends

What Are the Different Kinds of Pearls?

Posted on June 09, 2016 by Mary Hood | 1 Comment

Pearls are adored for their unique qualities and prized for the way they tend to ooze class as sophistication.

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Posted in freshwater pearls, informative, pearl jewelry, pearls, saltwater pearls

The Meaning of Pearls

Posted on June 29, 2014 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

If you celebrated your birthday this month, you're probably aware that your birthstone is the majestic pearl (and Happy Birthday, to you!). Ancient people esteemed pearls for their beauty and rarity--and although we mostly rely on cultured pearls these days, their special magic endures. Pearls may be found in a variety of shades, but we often associate white with pearls.

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Posted in cultured pearls, fun, gem lore, jewelry, pearl history, pearl jewelry, pearls