The Southern Cross Pearl is an Unusual Cluster of Pearls

The Southern Cross Pearl of nine attached pearls forms a Roman cross about one and one half inches.



The Southern Cross Pearl is an unusual pearl or rather cluster of pearls which attracted much attention twenty years ago. It consists of nine attached pearls forming a Roman cross about one and one half inches in length, seven pearls constituting the shaft or standard, while the arms are formed by one pearl on each side of the second one from the upper end.

The luster is good, but the individual pearls are not perfect spheres, being mutually compressed at the point of juncture and considerably flattened at the back.

If separated, the aggregate value of the individual pearls would be small, and the celebrity of the ornament is due almost exclusively to its form.

This striking formation was exhibited at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition at London in 1886, and later at the Paris Exhibition in 1889, where it was the center of interest, and obtained a gold medal for the exhibitors.

It is reported that an effort was made to bring about its sale at 10,000 pounds, the owners suggesting that it was especially appropriate for presentation to Leo XIII, on the occasion of his jubilee in 1896. The writers have been unable to obtain information as to its present location.

Much information relative to the the Southern Cross Pearl was volunteered by Henry Taunton in the very interesting account of his wanderings in Australia.

He presents apparently reliable statements showing that it was found on March 26, 1883, off Baldwin Creek in Lat. 17° S. and Long. 122° E, by a boy named Clark, in the employ of James W. S. Kelly, a master pearler.

When delivered to Kelly, it was in three distinct pieces, but the boy reported that it was in one piece when he found it a few hours before.

Kelly sold it in the three pieces in which he received it for 10 pounds to a fellow pearler named Roy; Roy sold it for 40 pounds to a man named Craig, and he sold it to an Austrialian syndicate.

However, according to Taunton's positive statement, there were only eight pearls in the cluster when it was sold by Kelly in 1883, and to make it resemble a well-proportioned cross--the right arm being absent--another pearl of suitable size and shape was subsequently secured at Cossack and attached in the proper place to the others, which, in the meantime, had been refastened together by diamond cement, thus making three artificial joints in the present cluster.

"As if to assist in the deception, nature had fashioned a hollow in the side of the central pearl just where the added pearl would have to be fitted; and--the whole pearling fleet with their pearls and shells coming into Cossack about this time--it was no difficult matter to select a pearl of the right size and with the convexity required. The holder paid some ten or twelve pounds for the option of selection a pearl within given limits; and then once more, with the aid of diamond cement and that of a skilful 'faker,' this celebrated gem was transformed into a perfect cross." (Taunton, "Australind," London, 1900, p. 231.)

Information on the Southern Cross Pearl as recorded in 1908 by Kunz and Stevenson in "The Book of the Pearl".

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