Largest Rare Quahog Pearl Discovered By Bostonian Shucking Clams To Lead Bonhams Lapidary Auction

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A rare and very large purple, non-nacreous Quahog pearl will be offered at the Lapidary Works of Art, Gemstones and Minerals auction to be held at Bonhams’ Los Angeles at 10 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016.

It is the largest Quahog pearl ever offered at public auction, and is estimated at $25,000-35,000.

The Quahog pearl does not come from an oyster but from a thick-shelled North American “chowder” clam. The gentleman who consigned it was shucking Little Neck clams for dinner when he discovered the 16.64 carat pearl.

The law school graduate, from Watertown, Boston, bought the clams for $25 at Brookline Market, with a view to making stuffed Quahogs. He said, ‘It was the most astonishing surprise of my life. Even my untrained eye could appreciate the rarity and beauty of what I had found. I later discovered how lucky I was – had I cooked the clam, the heat might have destroyed its luster.’

Very few of these pearls have ever come up for public auction, but Bonhams Natural History department, which specializes in the sale of exotic natural pearls, has sold the majority of them.

Claudia Florian, Co-Consulting Director of Bonhams Natural History Department in Los Angeles, said, “Quahog pearls can be found from Cape Cod all the way down to the Mid-Atlantic – but those found in the Boston area are usually the finest. This particular pearl is an exceptional example with a classic New England backstory.”

It is estimated that only one in 100,000 Quahog clams actually produce a pearl of any kind, and most are too unattractive for use in jewelry. The rarest Quahogs are those that are a true purple, and can only be found in New England. 

In quarterly magazine, Gems & Gemology, GIA's staff gemologist, Joyce Wing Yan Ho said "This Quahog pearl's large size, clean surface, fabulous luster, near-round shape and evenly distributed rich color combine to make it an exceptionally fine and rare example of its type." At a size of 16.64 carats, the pearl has a near-spherical-to-button-shape, displays a rich lavender hue and excellent porcelaneous luster.

 Other highlights in the Lapidary Works of Art, Gemstones and Minerals sale include: 

A Rare, Large Yellow Star Sapphire, estimated at $60,000-80,000

“Phenomenal” gems (those showing an optical phenomenon) abound in this auction and include a rare, large yellow star sapphire of 75.43 carats estimated at $60,000-80,000. The alluvial gem gravels of Sri Lanka were the source of this large, high-domed yellow sapphire that displays a strong central star effect and a medium yellow hue.

An Exceptional, Large Tanzanite Crystal, estimated at $200,000-300,000

This example ranks among the largest tanzanite crystals in existence and is one of the biggest ever offered at public auction. Hailing from the Merelani Hills in Tanzania, it measures nearly 7 ½ inches in height and weighing a substantial 4,015 carats. Very few large Tanzanite mineral specimens make their way into the collector market, as the majority of such crystals recovered are cut into the immensely popular and valuable faceted gemstones. The specimen is expected to bring $200,000-300,000.

 

Carved Gemstone Flower Study—"Poppies", estimated at $40,000-60,000

Working in the traditions of Faberge, the cover lot of the auction catalog is a flower study gemstone carving depicting poppies in full bloom, realistically rendered in red chalcedony, nephrite, black diamonds, rock crystal and 18K yellow gold.  It is estimated to fetch $40,000-60,000.

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