Draconic jewellery

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Like humans, dragons appear to enjoy owning and wearing jewellery for a variety of reasons, including personal vanity and in order to display and possibly increase their social status among other dragons (see Dragons, gold and property on this point.)

Jewellery for the head and neck appears to be particularly favoured - collars, necklaces, tiaras, headpieces of all sorts, etc. Some African dragons have piercings made in their upper lips in order to accommodate ivory and gold rings. Chinese dragons, besides adorning their heads and necks, sometimes also sport rings on their talons or talon sheaths of precious metals adorned with jewels.

However, the only record of a dragon wearing bands on their forearms is of the mesh message carriers worn by the Jade dragon couriers of China, such as Lung Yu Ping. The fine mesh depends from a silk and gold collar around the dragon's neck and is fixed to their forearms and talons by golden rings. It may be argued that this is not purely jewellery but rather a sort of working uniform.

There are no records of dragons wearing bands or bracelets on their rear legs or tails. There are also no records of jewellery worn in piercings along the wing edges or otherwise attached to the wings. While non-combattant dragons such as Celestials may display head and neck jewellery unsuitable for violent activities, it would seem that no dragon enjoys wearing items that might hinder their flight performance.

There does not appear to be any difference in the jewellery worn by male and female dragons. Temeraire was given a set of gold and silver talon sheaths "such as his mother occasionally wore" on the occasion of Laurence's adoption by the Jiaqing Emperor. On another occasion, when preparing to meet with the generals of the British army, he considered borrowing a spangled net of chains, to be draped over his ruff, from Iskierka.

The materials used in draconic jewellery vary with availability, both in terms of geography and in terms of the dragon's or their human companion's personal wealth. As mentioned above, African dragons wear jewellery made of ivory as well as other materials. Temeraire saw dragons in bazaars along the Old Silk Road wearing jewellery made of tin and glass, presumably because they could not afford more costly materials. On the other hand, the dragons of the Chinese Imperial court wore jewellery made of gold, silver and precious stones.

A few materials used in draconic jewellery are discussed in detail below.


Pearls

Pearls are associatied with dragons in Chinese myth and legend, as for example in the tale of Xiao Sheng. Certainly they appear to be a favourite gem among Celestial and Imperial dragons. At her first meeting with Temeraire, Lung Tien Qian wore "a deceptively fragile necklace of filigree gold, studded with more topazes and great pearls." Lung Tien Chuan was first seen by Laurence seen wearing "a net of gold draped from his ruff down the length of his neck, studded with pearls." Lung Qin Mei came to give Temeraire his lessons wearing "an elaborate collar of silver and pearls."

Temeraire himself was quite taken with the gold and pearl necklace Laurence presented him with when he was only a few weeks out of the shell and treasured it affectionately even after it had become absurdly small for his size. Later on, when Laurence bought him a larger and grander platinum pendant, set with sapphires around a single large pearl, Temeraire commented on his own love of pearls.


Platinum

The platinum of Temeraire's pendant will be of interest to students of metallurgical history. Although the first European reference to platinum appears in 1557, a consistent process for obtaining malleable platinum was not discovered until the late 18th century. Chemists did not realize that they were working with ores containing other platinum group metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium and iridium) and therefore obtained inconsistent results in their experiments.

In 1786, Charles III of Spain provided a library and laboratory to French chemist Pierre-François Chabaneau to aid in his research of platinum. After several months, Chabaneau succeeded in producing 23 kilograms of pure, malleable platinum by hammering and compressing the sponge form while white-hot. Chabaneau realized that the infusibility of platinum would lend value to objects made of it, and so started a business with Joaquín Cabezas producing platinum ingots and utensils. This began what is known as the "platinum age" in Spain, which was to last until 1808 when Chabaneau's laboratory was destroyed during an invasion by Napoleon's troops.

Platinum jewellery for humans had been available previously. Louis XV of France (1710-1774) had declared it the only metal fit for a king. However, prior to Chabaneau's discoveries, it would only have been available in small quantities. Thus, at the time Laurence purchased the pendant for Temeraire in 1805, platinum jewellery designed for dragons, particularly larger dragons, would have still have been a relatively new item on the market, quite fashionable and expensive.

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