Feb 272016

ted film crewJewelry appraisers have ample opportunities to quash the hopes and dreams of clients expecting to feather their nest egg when we value their heirloom jewelry.  But, then mom’s “alexandrite” or grandma’s five carat “ruby” turn out to be synthetic corundum and you are the heavy. So it was refreshing to participate in a feel good story recently that got world-wide attention for a few minutes.

The Call

So, I get this call one day from a lady who had dined in a local restaurant and bit down on something hard in her seafood dish.   I have had this story a few times before and have yet to give happy news to the diner.  Well, this lady said the thing was dark and spherical so she took it home and did some research, leading her to think she might have an elusive quahog pearl.  My initial reaction, as always, was to explain that I would have to examine it, but don’t get your hopes up.

A couple of days later, Lindsay arrived at my office displaying a 5mm very dark bead that was remarkably spherical.  Still skeptical, I put some light on it to reveal a purple coloration.  Having spent more time with natural pearls in recent years, I was familiar with the quahog, but not an expert.  I own a quahog pearl which is light gray with a light purple “eye” and button-shaped.  This one was of even coloration and round.

The Quahog pearl found in an Italian seafood dinner

Lindsay’s Quahog pearl as identified and valued by Ted Irwin

Quahogs come from the Venus Mercenari clam of the Eastern US coast, which sports a purple lip lending coloration to pearls that may form inside it.  They can be very spherical and being non-nacreous, have a distinctive texture.

Feeling confident that this was, indeed a quahog, I contacted my friend and colleague Antoinette Matlins, who is an expert on the pearl and lives within their domain.  She had no concerns about  my findings and we bounced values back and forth because that would be my client’s next question.

I telephoned Lindsay with the good news and she came in to pick it up and chat over her find.  I had arrived at a $600 retail figure, explained that selling it probably wouldn’t net as much and that maybe becoming a pendant would turn this into a nice keepsake.   I also saw this as a perfect human interest story.  Since Lindsay and I all reside in Issaquah, WA where the restaurant is located,  I said I would waive my identification charges if she contacted the local newspaper with this find.   The Issaquah Press is owned by the state’s largest newspaper, the Seattle Times, so if they found this interesting it could gain broader attention.

Slow news day?

Boy, did this get attention!  The story ran in the Seattle Times and was picked up by the local ABC TV affiliate, KOMO News, which aired a nice little feature that night featuring Lindsey, the restaurant owners, and yours truly.  The next morning it was an interview with ABC.com and in the afternoon another local TV crew – this time FOX and a longer feature.  The wire services had picked it up so when I Googled “quahog pearl,”  the first several listings were from news sources as far away as the UK, New Zealand and China.  This had gone from local to global in a couple of days.

Lindsay was inundated with interview requests and had to start turning them down. The restaurant was getting new patrons asking for the dish with the pearl, which they started calling their $1000 dish.

So, after decades of dashing one’s hopes and reporting on the negatives of the business, this was a very refreshing episode, indeed.   A wonderful story for Lindsay to share, more attention for a very good local restaurant and probably more calls to me from crackpots wanting me to ID their “finds” – maybe some legit business as well.   You never know what’s around the corner – or in your seafood.

No more Mr. Bad Guy.


Disclaimer – The AIJV blog is authored by a selection of AIJV members and guests specifically to be able present many different viewpoints on a large variety of subjects. The opinions expressed by the authors are not necessarily those of the AIJV.

Photo credits:  – Pearl in hand image – Komo News

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Ted Irwin

AIJV member Ted Irwin, is President of Northwest Gemological Laboratory, a jewelry appraisal practice in Bellevue, Washington, USA. Ted is the course creator, educator and owner of the Northwest Gemological Institute, who are the administrators of the Northwest Jewelry Conference.

  One Response to “An Indie’s 15 minutes”

  1. Excellent story Ted. I wonder if there have been any incidents like that down here In New Zealand with our local seafood?

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