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Bonhams Los Angeles offers rare Quahog pearl that escaped the dinner table

New England grad student found the gem in a bag of clams he bought for $25

One lucky graduate student in New England, who wishes to remain anonymous, discovered a rare 16.64-carat Quahog pearl while shucking a $25 bag of clams that he purchased at a market in Brookline, Massachusetts. The purple-hued pearl (est $25,000-$35,000) is slated to be the leading lot at Bonhams’ Lapidary Works of Art, Gemstones, Minerals and Natural History sale in Los Angeles on 7 December. The gem measures 13.64 by 11.84 mm and is undrilled, making it the largest-known Quahog pearl ever offered at a public auction, Bonhams says.

The pearl was analysed by the Gemmological Institute of America in New York, where it was immediately recognised as an exceptional specimen due to its “clean surface, which possessed an attractive sheen reminiscent of porcelain, and its near-round shape and richly-saturated colour”, the staff gemmologist Joyce Wing Yan Ho wrote in the institution’s most recent quarterly publication.  

Quahogs are a varietal of clam primarily native to the coastal Northern Atlantic waters and are often marketed as littlenecks, cherrystone or chowder, depending on their size. According to the auction catalogue, it is estimated that only one in 100,000 quahogs produce a pearl and that most are not aesthetically suitable for use in jewellery, as most samples that are submitted to gemmologists are below 10-carats and have a flat base rather than a round shape. Quahogs also vary in colour, but the rarest and most valuable are a deep purple.