Pearls were in the news recently when Lady Gaga showed up at a New York benefit decked out in hundreds of the luminescent orbs.
A more interesting story of pearls, though, can be found in Iowa author Stephen G. Bloom's new book: Tears of Mermaids: Tracking the Secret of Pearls (St. Martin's Press).
To research the book, Bloom worked as a pearling deckhand in the Timor Sea and tromped through Philippine jungles, tracking the hopscotch world pearl route from creation to consumption.
"Who were the nurturers at whose hands any object took shape?" Bloom asked. "What kind of lives did each along this global assembly line lead? Did the goods they produced have any meaning to them? After the goods were manufactured, how many middlemen traded them along the way, and by what amount did each hike the price? What were their stories?"
Why did Bloom write about pearls?
"My favorite book [as a boy] was The Pearl, which I must have read 20 times," he said. "I had (and still have) a wild crush on Holly Golightly, the Audrey Hepburn character in the 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's," bedecked in those exquisite pearl strands while peering into Tiffany's window on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Princess Grace, Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana were beautiful women, yes, but what sealed their sophistication and charm for me wasn't their looks, it was the pearls they wore."
Maybe sophistication and charm weren't the images Lady Gaga was after. But the pearls still did their job: They attracted attention.