Well. That’s a bit of an unexpected turn. I’ve been collecting bits and pieces about artificial pearls as I have projects where I use them and wanted to know if glass or plastic carry the properties they would have.
But now I’ve managed to digitise and translate sections of one of the most important works on North Rhine clothing and I find this:
“If one also considers their high prices, it is clear that the countless pearls listed in Cologne in the 15th century are largely imitations.”
Are they though? They are suggested as being Venetian glass which I’m pretty sure was even more expensive. But I also know that the glass industry in Cologne were reproducing Venetian glass so it is possible. But then I’d also expect the inventories to state this.
But I’m always reviewing my own theories so to the glass trade information I have.
So first, yes copying, but without the techniques to de-green glass, but there were techniques to add iridescence and it really is very beautiful.
So in theory these skills should transfer. But what about the evidence it did?
I can’t find it.
The source is J Faulk who wrote in the middle of the 19thC and he didn’t cite his source.
If we look through the trades, pearls feature heavily in the goldsmiths records. They also feature in the “Wappenstickerei” records (including a series of letters threatening legal action.)
It’s hard to find records of glassworkers but if we go back to the inventories then we do find a lot of pearls that are carefully counted. We also find fake gold in the form of silver that is gilded. So if pearls were fake then they would be described as such.
The visual record also seems to support pearls as markers of sumptuary laws. You wouldn’t be recorded breaking these laws, but on top of this the visual record seems to follow the massive economic loss that occurred in the later half of the 16thC.
I hope this helps explain just how wide you have to search for information for a seemingly niche topic.
But one of the reasons I’m interested in that fake pearls