"The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens.”
The Pearl O' the Tay tartan, is named for the famous Abernethy pearl, also named "Little Wille," an extraordinary 44 grain freshwater pearl found by pearl fisherman William Abernethy in 1967. This exceptional, beautifully rounded pinkish-white pearl was found in the River Tay from a freshwater pearl mussel species, Margaritifera margaritifera.
The historical importance of the freshwater mussel Margaritifera margaritifera in Britain dates back to over 2,000 years to the pre-Roman period. During the Roman period in 55 BC, one of the four reasons given by Julius Caesar for invading Britain was to take control of the trade in Scottish freshwater pearls, which together with gold, underpinned the Roman monetary system.
In the 12th century, Scottish pearls were traded in the pearl markets of Europe, and by the 16th century commercial exploitation of the freshwater mussel had developed into a large scale industry in Britain and Ireland. During this period the Government employed river bailiffs to supervise the exploitation of freshwater mussels and to ensure that all valuable pearls reached the King's treasury. Scottish pearls of exceptional quality entered the crown jewels of both England and Scotland during this period.
For more about the real pearl o' the Tay, click the Abernethy Pearl.