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Pearls were perceived in the first century in much the same way we view diamonds today. They were the most valuable gem in the world at that time. If you owned a pearl, you owned a fortune.

And there was a good reason for it. Pearl hunting involved immense danger. The fine quality pearls are obtained from the pearl oyster. Since that oyster thrives at an average depth of 40 feet, a pearl isn’t a treasure you just stumble across as you walk along a beach.

Pearls aren’t found like that. In biblical times they were obtained at great cost in human terms -- many people died while pearl hunting. They didn’t have the equipment that’s available today.

First century pearl hunting equipment consisted of a rope and a rock. A pearl diver would tie a large rock to his body and jump over the side of a little boat, allowing the weight of the rock to carry him down to the oyster beds. He risked danger from sharks, moray eels and other creatures to scour the mud below for oysters. An average of only one oyster in a thousand contain a pearl. All the while, he had to hold his breath and hope he wouldn’t drown.

You can see why pearls were so precious. The Jewish Talmud said, "pearls are beyond price." The Egyptians actually worshipped the pearl, and...

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