Earlier this morning, a fisherman in the Philippines rolled out of bed and casually revealed that he had been keeping the world’s largest pearl under his bed for a decade. The Daily Mail happily decreed that the pearl was worth an “eye-watering” $100 million. It is, indeed, nearly two feet long and weighs as much as a human child (about 75 lbs).
It is, however, kind of bullshit.
Robert James, president of the International School of Gemology told Inverse that the $100 million price tag is basically sensationalized nonsense. The pearl that an as-yet unidentified Filipino fisherman had been keeping as a good-luck charm for the last 10 years is not a traditional, iridescent pearl, like a Mikimoto or an Akoya. It’s not gem-quality. This particular formation is more porcelain-like; essentially, it’s a mass of calcium carbonate, which basically just means it’s a big pile of clam snot.
“The $100 million is a great story, a great tourist attraction, but there’s no way someone could actually attach a price tag to that,” James says. “It’s more of an oddity than a rarity. The Hope Diamond is a rarity; it has a value that goes along with is. [This recent find] doesn’t have that kind of value.”
Still, it is cool that the thing grew to be as big as it did. Clams can live to be 100 years old; they attach themselves to coral reefs and stay there for life. The waters off the Philippines, says James, are fairly stable and not overly polluted, which means the clam was free to just keep growing and growing.
“This pearl could have started growing in this clam when the Titanic sank for all we know,” James says. “It takes time to create something this big. So its shape is just the shape of the clam it’s been sitting in, growing all this time as the clam keeps coating it.”
There are gem-quality pearls in Australia’s South Sea that James says will occasionally reach 20, maybe 22 millimeters, but nothing on the scale of the pearl you saw on the internet today. There’s a reason that this pearl knocked off the pedestal of World’s Biggest Biggest Pile of Clam Snot; the Pearl of Allah, was in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not instead of the Smithsonian. It is also not a rarity — just an oddity.