(גָּבַישׁ, gabish, from a root which in the Arabic means to freeze, but in the Chaldee to collect; Sept. merely Graecizes, γαβίς; Vulg. eminentia). The Heb. word occurs, in this form, only in Job 28:18, where the price of wisdom is contrasted with that of ramdth ("coral") and gabish; and the same word, with the prefixed syllable el (אֶל), is found in Eze 13:11,13; Eze 38:22, with abne, "stones," i.e. "stones of ice" (A.V. "hailstones"). The ancient versions contribute nothing by way of explanation. Schultens (Comnment. on Job, l.c.) leaves the word untranslated: he gives the signification of "pearls" to the Heb. term pennim (A.V. "rubies") which occurs in the same verse. Gesenius, Furst, Rosenmüller, Maurer, and commentators generally, understand "crystal" by the term, on account of its resemblance to ice. Lee (Comment. on Job, l.c.) translates ramoth ve-gabish, "things high and massive." Carey renders gabish by "mother-of-pearl," though he is by no means content with this explanation. On the whole, the balance of probability is in favor of "crystal," since gabish denotes "ice" (not "hailstones," as Carey supposes, without the addition of abne, "stones") in the passages of Ezekiel where the word occurs. There is nothing to which ice can be so well compared as to crystal. The objection to this interpretation is that crystal is not an article of much value; but perhaps reference may here be made to the beauty and pure luster of rock crystal, or this substance may by the ancient Orientals have been held in high esteem. Pearls (μαργαρῖται), however, are frequently mentioned in the N.T.: comp. Mt 13:45-46, where the kingdom of heaven is likened unto "a merchantman seeking goodly pearls." Pearls formed part of women's attire (1Ti 2:9; Re 17:4). "The twelve gates" of the heavenly Jerusalem were twelve pearls (Re 21:21); perhaps "mother-of-pearl" is here more especially intended. In Mt 7:6 pearls are used metaphorically for anything of value; or perhaps more especially for "wise sayings," which in Arabic, according to Schultens (Harsiri Consess. 1:12; 2:102), are called pearls. See Parkhurst, Gr. Lex. s.v. Μαργαρίτης) Other words supposed by some to mean pearls (besides פּנַינַים above) are בּרֹלִח , bedolach ("bdellium," Ge 2:12); and דִּר, dar ("white," Es 1:6). See each in its place.
The above intimations seem to indicate that pearls were in more common use among the Jews after than before the Captivity, while they evince the estimation in which they were held in later times (Pliny, Hist. Nat. 9:54; 12:41; Elian, Anim. 10:13; comp. Ritter, Erdkunde, 2:164; Wellsted, Travels, 1:181 sq.). The island of Tylos (Bahrein) was especially renowned for its fishery of pearls (Pliny, 6:32; comp. Straboi xvi, p. 767; Athen. 3:93; Heeren, Ideen, I, 2:244 sq.); the Indian Ocean was also known to produce pearls (Arrian, Indica, p. 194; Pliny, 9:54; 34:48; Strabo, 15, p. 717). Heeren feels assured that this indication must be understood to refer to the strait between Taprobana, or Ceylon, and the southernmost point of the mainland of India, Cape Comorin, whence Europeans, even at present, derive their principal supplies of these costly natural productions (Ideen, I, 2:224). See further, Bochart, Hieroz. 3:601 sq.; Hartmann, Hebr. 3:84 sq.; Rosenmüller, Alterthum, IV, 2:458 sq.; Gesen. Thes. p. 24,1113.
The excessive passion for the use of pearls in decorative costume which prevails at the present day in the East is shown by the state costume of the shall of Persia. Sir Robert Ker Porter, describing it, mentions "the diamonds, pearls, rubies, and emeralds" of which the tiara is composed, "the pear-formed pearls of an immense size" with which the plumes are tipped; the "two strings of pearls, probably the largest in the world," which crossed the king's shoulders; and the "large cushion encased in a network of pearls," against which he reclined (Travels, 1:325). Sir Harford Brydges dilates on other objects: "The king's tippet . . . is a piece of pearl-work, of the most beautiful pattern; the pearls are worked on velvet, but they stand so close together that little, if any, of the velvet is visible. It took me an hour to examine this single article, which I have no fear in saying cannot be matched in the world. The tassel which on such occasions is appended to the state dagger is formed of pearls of the most uncommon size and beauty; and the emerald which forms the top of the tassel is, perhaps, the largest perfect one in the world" (Mission to Persia, p. 383). Sir William Ousely, describing the "royal apparel" of Futteh Ali Shah, says: "Of the king's dress I could perceive that the color was scarlet, but to ascertain exactly the materials would have been difficult, from the profusion of large pearls that covered it in various places, and the multiplicity of jewels that sparkled all around; for the golden throne seemed studded at the sides with precious stones of every possible tint, and the back resernbled a sun of glory, of which the radiation was imitated by diamonds, garnets, emeralds, and rubies. Of such, also, was chiefly composed the monarch's ample and most splendid crown, and the two figures of birds that ornamented the throne, one perched on each of its beautiful enameled shoulders" (Travels, 3:131). From the immutability of custom in the East we are ready to conclude that the elements of this magnificence must have been common to the ancient Oriental courts. But there are some circumstances which seem to militate against the very great antiquity of the use of pearls, at least to an extravagant extent. The costume of the monarchs of Egypt, as depicted in the numerous paintings which have come down to us from their own times, is comparatively simple; the principal article of adornment which canl be called jewelry being the collar. This indeed was rich and elaborate, and seems to have been composed either of gold or of gems set in gold. Yet pearls do not seem, so far as we can judge from the representations, to have taken a prominent place in the construction of these or similar articles. Many examples of ladies' jewelry, as necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, have been found in the tombs, and are preserved in the museums and cabinets of Europe. In these pearls are sometimes mounted, as well as gems; but their occurrence is by no means profuse. The discovery of Ninevite remains has made us comparatively familiar with the appearance and usages of the Assyrian court and people at a much later period than that of the Egyptian monuments. The portraits of successive monarchs have been exhumed, and numerous representations exist of royal costume. Generally this is gorgeous enough, but there is little evidence to show that pearls were much used in personal decoration. The circlets of the tiara, the ear-rings, necklaces, and collars, the armlets and bracelets, the sword and dagger hilts, all show the jeweller's art; but for the most part these objects were evidently wrought in gold. In settings and strings of gems do occur, but the angled and faceted forms of these almost invariably show that stones or imitations of stones are intended. According to Colonel Rawlinson's reading of the inscription on the Black Obelisk, however, Temenbar received as "tribute from the kings of the Chaldees gold, silver, gems, and pearls." What we think manifest from the evidence of Egyptian and Assyrian monuments is not the absolute lack of pearls in costume, but great moderation in the use of them. "A necklace of twenty-seven pearls" is mentioned in the Ramdyana (i, sect. 14), a Hindu poem of an antiquity probably at least as great as that of the Assyrian remains. The possession of the rich pearl-banks in the Persian Gulf would naturally make the court of Shushan the chief depository of these elegant luxuries; and the taste for effeminate luxury in costume which has always distinguished that court, at least from Grecian times, would suggest the manner of appropriating them. We know that the fishery was actively prosecuted, both in the gulf and the Indian Ocean, in the time of Pliny and Strabo. The island called Tylos, the modern Bahrein, on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf, was the seat of the former, and that of the latter probably the strait between Ceylon and the shore of India; and these two constitute the chief sources of pearls to this day. From the Persian court the taste for pearls spread to that of the Ptolemies. Cleopatra, at a supper with Antony, of which Pliny has given us the details, took from her ear one of a pair of pearls of the value of £80,000 sterling — "the singular and only jewels of the world, and even nature's wonder;" and having dissolved it in vinegar, swallowed the absurdly precious draught; and would have done the same with its fellow had it not been rescued from her "pride and wanton trauverie." From Egypt the fashion passed to Rome; and the degenerate descendants of the iron republicans rivaled even the Persian monarchs in their ambition to
——— "Wear The spoils, of nations in an ear, Chang'd for the treasure of a shell."
Pliny's picture of a Roman lady is amusing enough, especially as seen through the glass of old Philemon Holland's translation: "I myselfe haue seen Lollia Paulina (late wife, and after widdow, to Caius Caligula the emperor), when she was dressed and set out, not in stately wise, nor of purpose for some great solemnity, but only when she was to go to a wedding supper, or rather unto a feast, when the assurance was made, and great persons they were not that made the said feast; I have seen her, I say, so beset and bedeckt all over with hemeraulds and pearles, disposed in rows, ranks, and courses one by another; round about the attire of her head, her cawle, her borders, her peruk of hair, her bond grace and chaplet; at her eares pendant about her neck in a carcanet, upon her wrest in bracelets, and on her fingers in rings; that she glistened and shon again like the sun as she went. The value of these ornaments she esteemed and rated at four hundred thousand sestertii, and offered openly to prove it out of hand by her bookes of accounts and reckonings," etc. Julius Caesar is reported to have presented Servilia, the mother of M. Brutus, with a pearl worth a quarter of a million of dollars; and Claudius, the son of AEsop the successful Roman actor, imitated and even exceeded the wanton folly of Cleopatra.
Pearls are accidental concretions of shelly matter deposited within the valves of certain bivalve Mollusca, of which the most celebrated species is the Avicula margaritifera, which is spread over the whole of the tropical parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans. In all bivalves the surface of the mantle has the power of depositing calcareous matter in thin layers, which hardening forms a shelly coat on the inner side of the valves, and in most species this lining has a pearly lustre. A pearl is nothing but an abnormal shell, reversed; that is to say, the nacreous coat is here external. The peculiar lustre of nacre is dependent on the fact that the surface is not perfectly smooth, but covered with the irregularly sinuous edges of innumerable layers of inconceivable thinness, which are deposited one over the other. The distance of these edges from each other varies indefinitely, the pearls of the finest water having them closest; they are always, however, too fine to be detected by the naked eye. These edges make so many steps, so to speak; and the iridescence is produced by the mutual interference of the rays of light reflected from these thousands of angles. For their water, or lustre, as distinguished from iridescence, pearls are indebted to their being composed of thin layers, which allow light to pass through them, while their numerous surfaces disperse and reflect the light in such a manner that it returns and mingles with that which is directly reflected from the exterior. The thinner and more transparent the constituent lavers, the more perfect is the lustre (Kelaart and Mobius, Annals of Nat. Hist. Feb. 1858). The immediate occasion of the production of a pearl appears to be always the presence of some extraneous substance, such as a grain of sand, an egg either of the mollusk or of some other animal, some parasitic intruder, or the silicious shell of one of the Diatomacece on which the oyster feeds. Hence pearls may be artificially educed by inserting foreign matters properly shaped and fastened inside the shell. Though pearl-fisheries have been established in various parts of the world, yet the most productive are still those which have been worked from antiquity. The annual produce of the Bahrein bank — the ancient Tylos — is set down at $1,000,000. The fishery near Cape Comorin — probably the Perimula of Pliny — yielded to the British government (in 1867) a net revenue of 81,917 star-pagodas. That on the western coast of Ceylon is, however, stated to be the richest of all; it is a monopoly in the hands of the British government, but we have no statistics of its actual value. The fullest details of the pearl-fishery are those given of this last by Captain Percival (Hist. of Ceylon); by Dr. Kelaart in his Report of the same, and by Dr. Mobius in his general resumd of the subject (Die echten Perlen, Hamb. 1857). The Unio margaritiferus, Mytilus edulis, and Ostrea edulis (common oyster) of our own country, occasionally furnish pearls. The shell of the pearl-oyster constitutes the well-known mother-of-pearl, which is extensively used for ornaments, especially in Bethlehem. Those of Palestine are procured from the Red Sea. SEE GEM.