Concentration Is a Gem I

A pearl beyond price, and… mostly beyond reach too.


The Chinese word yu means both “jade” and “precious stone.”  In ancient China, only the first wife could wear jade.  The second had to content herself with diamonds.  I wonder if the third wife got pearls?

The pearl is one of the oldest gems known.  The Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud all mention pearls.  The Hindus believe Vishnu created it.  The Chinese believed that pearls were really the brains of dragons.  Such was Queen Elizabeth the First’s love of this gem (she briskly added Mary Queen of Scot’s famous pearls to her own fabulous collection) that, even at the hour of her death, she was adorned with her most splendid pearls.

When I was about eleven years old I had a rock tumbler.  With its black rubber soft lining muting the sound pretty much, I heard it forever turning in the basement—I couldn’t wait. The big amethyst crystal and the hunk of petrified wood, I took them out too early: dull, with funny gummy edges, but I loved them.

And now, still, few things make me as happy as beautiful stones and the marvelous color plates of 1950s gem books —so glommable, so finger-tip- itchingly desirable:


And precious lore is in those books:

“Put a snake in a jar with a sapphire and the viper will die instantly.”

“And right as the pearl of its own nature takes roundness, so the diamond, by virtue of God, takes squareness (Sir John Mandeville,14th c).

“Hold a moonstone in your mouth and it will refresh your memory.”

How complete a gem—precisely and saturatedly itself.

Gems cannot have doubt.

The desire for blooms to stay, for spring blossoms not to fall, not to fade:

Gems—no loss, no death.  No retreat, no fading, no change.  So desirable to own, like owning a pool of light.

But so pleasant just to see, to admire other people’s gems, though there’s some coveting… A heart pinprick and outflow at a gorgeous ruby, a teeny bit of blood being drawn.

“The Japanese express their glyphic sense,” one of my gem books explained,  “mainly through the medium of ivory and wood.  The sole exception, if we may call it an exception, is the fashioning of polished spheres from rock crystal. On the other hand, Chinese carvers work chiefly in the decorative stones such as jade, rock crystal, amethyst, chalcedony, jasper, rose quartz, carnelian, turquoise, lapis lazuli, not to mention softer mediums such as serpentine, malachite, and amber.”

The musical syrup of gem names!

The exact same sugar bliss as those old gem illustrations—that languorous, louche delight!


A week later:

Concentration is a sapphire that fell out of my ring: I lost it. – BKE