After the Temple of Heaven, we were off to another tourist trap - the pearl market. Micah was dead to the world at this point:
We were ushered into a little classroom...
Freshwater pearls actually yield about 25 pearls per mussel. Cool, huh? She actually cracked one open for us and showed us the rows upon rows of teeny pinkish pearls. They were very small - she said that this mussel was only two years old or so, and that they usually let the mussels grow more mature before they crack them open - when they're six or so. She kind of wedged the pearls out of the mussel and let each of us keep a couple of them. Dylan asked if he could have mine in addition to his, to give to his girlfriend, Sierra. He's so cute.
So there are four colors of pearls that the freshwater mussel makes - pink, white, and purple. They're just gorgeous. She told us which colors go best with which kind of complexions - the white are supposed to look really good on olive-skinned people with dark hair. The pink is supposed to look best on blondes with tan skin. And the purple is supposed to look best with brunettes or blondes that have non-olive skin.
The gal in there taught us how to tell between real pearls and fake pearls. She rubbed two different strands of pearls together. One of them sounded kind of like hard plastic toys rubbing each other. The other sounded like two smooth rocks rubbing each other. I couldn't tell them apart by sight. The one that sounded like rocks was the real set of pearls. She says that sometimes people create fake pearls by using ground pearl dust and some other component together.
She also said that, when you rub two real pearls together, they will leave a small amount of dust on your hands. Fake pearls won't. So now ya know.
Then we were let into the main area to do some shopping. The pearls weren't cheap by any means, but gosh, they were gorgeous. Ben tried to do some bartering, but they weren't having any of that here. We really should have saved our money and gone to the silk market for pearls (though this shop was a state-run, guaranteed certified pearl place, and who knows if the ones in the silk market are real?), but the lure was too great, and we got a few birthday and Christmas presents for certain relatives who shall remain nameless, except for Mom. Her birthday was in October, so she's received her gift. We got her a necklace and bracelet with pink pearls in it. Yes, she's blonde with non-olive skin, so we should have given her purple, but I knew she already had purple pearls. My mom is a jewelery junkie. She had purple and she had white, so we gave her pink. And she loves them.
As we were milling about, there were, as is usual in any store or shop in China, about ten billion salespeople who were just standing around. I feel badly for them. But at least they have jobs, right? Maybe the Chinese have it right in that way. So I went to this one counter and was looking at necklaces, and this cute little Chinese gal looks at me dreamily and says, "You look just like Angelina Jolie."
To say I was flattered is an understatement.
But then I realized that this was probably like the flattery technique used in the silk market - flatter the vain Westerners, and they'll buy more stuff from you. Haha! (It still made me feel good. Even though I know it's in no way true.)
Micah got really heavy, and Ben and I had made our purchases, but of course, we had like two hours at the place where you can spend money. Haha! So I rested for a bit until the whole group was ready to go to the Summer Palace: