E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Gresham and the Pearl.
When Queen Elizabeth visited the Exchange, Sir Thomas Gresham, it is said, pledged her health in a cup of wine containing a precious stone crushed to atoms, and worth £15,000. If this tale is true, it was an exceedingly foolish imitation of Cleopatra (q.v.).
Here fifteen thousand pounds at one clap goes
Instead of sugar; Gresham drinks the pearl
Unto his queen and mistress. Pledge it, lords.
Heywood: If You Know Not Me You Know Nobody.
To dine or sup with Sir Thomas Gresham. (See under DINE.)