While vacationing with his family last week in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Scott Overland happened upon a mysterious object in his clam dinner from local seafood restaurant Salt Air.
Teeth safely intact, Overland mistakenly thought the chef had accidentally dropped an extra ingredient into his dish, much to his dismay. At first he believed the object to be a shell or something similarly solid, but after careful observation of its circular shape and unique color, neither he nor his wife could identify it.
Initially, it didn’t occur that it may be a pearl, as they’re most popularly known to be white and originate from oysters. After ruling out buttons and beads, a closer look revealed an indentation in the clamshell that matched the shape of the unique object. That's when Overland and his wife figured the extra ingredient was not from the meal but the clam itself, deciding to investigate Google for further information.
“We found that this [purple pearl] actually was something kind of rare and special, and saw a wide range of values, from $600 to even $16,000,” Overland told TODAY Food. The restaurant confirmed to local outlet Delaware Online that the clam was a northern quahog, otherwise known by its scientific name, Mercenaria mercenaria.
According to the International Gem Society (IGS), it’s extremely rare to discover natural pearls in quahogs, especially non-white ones, also defined as non-nacreous, porcelain-like pearls (the non-iridescent kind). What enhances the rarity is that only one in 5,000 quahogs produce purple pearls, which are often found damaged due to their mechanized harvesting process.
Salt Air’s clam dish itself happens to be an appetizer that costs only $14 and includes scampi sauce, parmesan cheese, and bell pepper pico de gallo.
“My wife is not a big fan of peppers, so we actually ordered it without that,” Overland said. “It came (with the pico) and my wife was deciding whether or not to send it back. She decided to keep it fortunately, otherwise, we would not have had this whole experience.”
As fate would have it, it seems the Overlands were meant to discover the rare purple pearl and have this wonderful story to tell.
When asked what he’d do with the rare find, Overland hadn’t decided whether or not to keep it, stating that he may gift it to a loved one.
“If it’s appraised at a certain value, it may be hard to justify keeping it, but I have a six-year-old daughter who I’m sure would love to have it,” Overland said. “We might try to turn it into something so we can have a special family heirloom. That, or I have to keep eating clams and find a second one if I want to turn it into earrings.”