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34kg pearl found in Philippines 'is world's biggest'
August 24, 2016, 3:42 pm

Philippine tourism officials believe they have recovered what may be the world’s biggest natural giant clam pearl that weighs a whopping 34kg — five times bigger than the previous record, the BBC has reported.

The giant pearl has yet to be appraised by gemologists, who could then give it an estimated value, which could run into millions of dollars.

A local fisherman, who found the pearl 10 years ago from a giant clam off the western Philippine islands, was unaware of its value — and kept it at home as a good luck charm, Palawan tourism official Aileen Amurao said.

"We were amazed when he brought it to us," she told local media.

Gemologists are being consulted to confirm if indeed it is the world's largest natural gem.

The pearl is 61cm (2ft) wide and 30cm long and, if confirmed, will easily beat the current record holder, the Pearl of Lao Tzu, which weighs 6.4kg, which was also found off the Philippines.

The odd-looking natural Palawan pearl, however, is nothing like a traditional, iridescent pearl, like a Mikimoto or an Akoya. 

The waters off the Philippines harbour some of the world’s richest marine sanctuaries, are fairly stable and not overly polluted — which means clams are relatively free to grow bigger and bigger.

Pearls, one the most popular jewelleries, are porcelain-like mass of calcium carbonate, are formed inside clams, which can live for hundreds of years, usually in coral reefs.

Pearl of Lao Tzu

In 1934, a Filipino diver found at Brooke’s Point, also in Palawan, the so-called “Pearl of Lao Tzu” which had a length of 9.4 inches and weighed 14 pounds (6.4kg).

It was authenticated in the US in 1936 as a tridacna pearl, and was declared by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest natural pearl then.

The Pearl of Lao Tzu, however, is quite unlike the perfectly-shaped orbs with pearlescent sheens found in jewellery shops.

With an appraised value of $3.5 million in 1939, the Lao Tzu pearl is irregular in shape with many tortuous surfaces — much like a brain, and had a porcelain-like surface.

An article published in the Pearl Guide Forum quoted Michael Steenrod, a US gemologist from Colorado Springs, who likened the Pearl of Lao Tzu to "a religious artifact. It was valued at $60 million in 1982, which was raised to $93 million in 2007.

Steenrod’s appraisal is accepted in a US court as an accurate value, based on a 1982 estimate by the SF Gem Lab's Lee Sparrow, with inflation.

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