Page:Natural History, Mollusca.djvu/259

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247
PEARL SHELLS.

On the shell being opened the oyster is minutely examined for the pearls; it is usual even to boil the oyster, as the pearl, though commonly found in the shell, is not unfrequently contained in the body of the fish itself.

"The stench occasioned by the oysters being left to putrefy is intolerable, and remains for a long while after the fishing is over. It corrupts the atmosphere for several miles round Condatchy, and renders the neighbourhood of that country extremely unpleasant till the monsoons and violent south-west winds set in and purify the air. The nauseous smell, however, is not able to overcome the hope of gain; for months after the fishing season, numbers of people are to be seen earnestly searching and poring over the sands and places where the oysters had been laid to putrefy; and some are now and then fortunate enough to find a pearl that amply compensates their trouble in searching after them. In 1797, while Mr. Andrews was collector, a coolie, or common fellow of the lowest class, got by accident the most valuable pearl seen that season, and sold it to Mr. Andrews for a large sum.

"The pearls found at this fishery are of a whiter colour than those got in the Gulf of Ormus, on the Arabian coast, but in other respects are not accounted so pure, or of so excellent a quality; for though the white pearls are more esteemed in Europe, the natives prefer those of a yellowish or golden cast. Off Tutucoreen, which is on the Coromandel coast, nearly opposite to Condatchy, there is another fishery; but the pearls found there are much inferior to those two species I have mentioned, being tinted with a blue or greyish tinge.