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: 5 : “Regardless of Gender, Class, Color, and Condition” Pearls in Private Possession around the Iberian Imperial World Alongside accounts of the hustle and bustle of pearl production in the Caribbean , Pacific, and Indian Oceans, records of pearl trades over the course of the seventeenth century point to similarly complex approaches to the custodianship of wealth. In the first few years of the century, in the growing port of London, royal jeweler Arnold Llul was rumored to be buying Portuguese pearls from a ship anchored in the Thames, while a boat captain named Richard Crewe seized pearls from a German-­ manned boat and delivered them to the former ambassador to Spain at his private home. In 1601, crew members recalled Francis Drake’s deliveryofa haul of pearls ofdubious provenance to the queen just a few years earlier. Meanwhile, in Lisbon, English spies intercepted news of the shipping of pearls and other valuables between Cochin and Portugal’s capital city.When a Spanish flagship, the Santa Margarita, sank in 1622 carrying a small lead box with sixteen thousand untaxed pearls in it, or when a Spanish merchant, en route to India, died in Mozambique that same year with valuable pearls sewn into the sleeve of his shirt, these types of circulation networks were often neither legal nor illegal. They were the independent actions that gave form and function to drafty imperial infrastructures characterized by limited powers of enforcement. They reflected people’s perceptions of markets and value—of alliances as well as of material goods—and the actions they took to maintain and pursue them.1 From the harbors of Lisbon and London to the vibrant Pacific and Caribbean port towns of Lima and Cartagena, to the green hills and hidden coves of Galicia, to the ship holds of India-­ bound Portuguese carracks, pearls illuminate how people curated and thought about wealth, approaches that some1 . For Drake, see E 133/10/1486 (November 1601), TNA. For Llul, see HCA 30/ 840/262, fols. 667–669, TNA. For pearls between Goa and Lisbon, see SP 89/3, fols. 23–24, 26–30, 39–40 (Jan. 10, 12, August 1601), TNA. For pearls brought to the house of Rich­ ard Crewe, see E 134/5Jas/Mich 41 (Sept. 4, 1607), TNA. { 164 } Pearls in Private Possession times intersected with and sometimes diverged from imperial policies. Even if pearls as an aggregate source of imperial wealth had diminished, global demand for them meant that they circulated more widely and, likely, in greater numbers among a broader selection of consumers than before. Indeed, by the turn to the seventeenth century, pearls moved so freely and in such numbers that the crown stopped trying to regulate their use through sumptuary laws. In 1602, a decree issued by Philip III intended to address “the great excesses and excessive expenses that have prevailed in our kingdoms” in both male and female dress. The decree referenced earlier similar laws and prohibited all people, regardless of “gender, class, quality, and condition,” from wearing items of clothing decorated in any fashion with gold, silver, pearls, aljofar (seed pearl), or stones. Yet, barely a decade later, the crown reversed its decision. In 1611, “desiring to provide for and remedy the great excess that has existed of late, in these kingdoms,” the king ordered that his council institute measures designed to eliminate such profligacy and prevent it from consuming “the wealth of our subjects and citizens on superfluous and excessive things.” Although prohibiting many different types of decorative items, ranging from bed curtains and carriage decorations to diamond jewelry, the decree allowed that “women may freely wearany strands and ropes of pearls” along with a variety of other pearl decorations.2 Pearls were embedded in the wider social and material contexts of the communities through which they moved, tokens of belonging within intricate webs of personal ties. Whether as currency or adornment, pearls flowed along networks of mutual obligation.They tracedelicate skeins of interdependence that linked diplomats with sailors, divers with corsairs, Pacific Ocean ship captains with Caribbean merchants, mothers in Spain with daughters in America, and cities’ most humble residents with their most wealthy. Procuring “Pearls as Big as Garbanzos”: Gondomar in Galicia and Distributing the Wealth of Empire Far from damp customhouses on the shores of the Thames or the docks of Lisbon and Seville, the small Iberian harbor town of Baiona hosted a lively 2. RAH, Salazar y Castro, N-­ 25, fols. 266–269; RAH, Jesuitas, 7.176, “Pragmática ,” 1611...


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