by Jorge Costa
(London, United Kingdom)
Scottish Pearl Collection
Scottish pearls are very rare freshwater pearls produced by a mussel (Margaritifera Margaritifera), found in the River Tay and other Scottish rivers. The Scottish pearls come in colours from rustic brown, grey, cream, white, lilac and pink with a subtlety in colour and lustre that distinguishes them from their oriental counterparts.
Exploitation of freshwater pearl mussels has taken place since pre-Roman times. The earliest reference in Britain is by Julius Caesar's biographer, Suetonius, who stated that Caesar's admiration of pearls was a reason for the first Roman invasion in 55BC. In Scotland, the earliest reference dates back to the 12th Century when Alexander I, King of Scots, was said to have 'the best pearl collection of any man living'. The medieval poem 'The Parl' which dates from the late 14th Century is another early reference to freshwater pearl mussels in Scotland. The Scottish Crown housed at Edinburgh Castle is set with Scottish pearls
Further references in later centuries indicate a growing exploitation of Scottish pearl mussels. By the 18th century the first references to a decline in pearl mussel numbers is recorded. This decline accelerated during the 20th century due to over fishing, water pollution, and a deteriorating ecosystem; to such degree that there was evidence that pearl mussels became extinct from an average of two rivers every year in Scotland between 1970 and 1998; when the species gained full protected status, making it an offense to kill, injure, take, intentionally disturb or damage their habitat, or sell without a license from the Scottish government.
Only two jewellery shops, Cairncross
in the city of Perth
and Alistir Wood Tait in Edinburgh possess a Scottish government license to sell the pearls.