Who threw the most expensive dinner party ever held?
The myth goes that Cleopatra and Mark Anthony made a bet with each other on who could throw the most expensive dinner party. Anthony imported the most exotic animals, dancers, musicians wines, food and guests from all over the Empire. The lavish extravaganza party lasted for a week. After a few days recovery Cleopatra invited Mark Anthony to her party. He entered a great hall which was completely plain with the exception of a low table at one end. On the table was a single chalice filled with vinegar and in a shallow dish next to the chalice were two large uniform round pearls with excellent luster which today we would call South Seas Peals. Bamboozled Anthony sat down next to Cleopatra. She then took the pearls and dropped them into the chalice. As vinegar dissolves calcium carbonate (which is the chemical composition of pearls) the pearls fizzed and dissolved into the chalice. Cleopatra instructed Mark Anthony to drink the contents of the chalice. When he had finished she proclaimed that that drink had cost far more than the week long extravaganza that he had put on.
The lesson to be learned from this fable is that as precious as pearls are, being an organic material they need to be looked after. Pearls have a hardness of only two on the Mohs scale of hardness. They should always be strung with knots so that they don’t rub against each other causing necessary wear and because they are also are very porous, oils and especially perfume can irrevocably damage the luster and colour of the pearls. This is why pearls should always be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off.
The allure and value of pearls has lasted down through the ages. Today, South Seas Pearls from the waters of Australia are amongst the most highly valued pearls in the world.