Purple Quahog Pearl Almost Discarded

Purple Quahog Pearl Almost Discarded

A clam that a Portsmouth, R.I. couple thought was rotten turned out to hold a rare gem: a purple pearl that could be worth lots of money.

It happened earlier this month when Barbara Krensavage brought home about four dozen quahogs from a Newport seafood restaurant.

"I felt like having clams and I went out and we got 50 of them," she told Tracy Smith on The Early Show Tuesday. "They tasted so good, I went out the next day in a blizzard to get more."

Her husband, Thaddeus or "Ted" Krensavage, was shucking them when he came across one he thought was diseased.

"As I opened it," he told Smith, "I noticed this — I didn't know what it was — a hard thing that isn't supposed to be in clams, I knew, or thought, anyway. And I scraped it into a plate of discarded clam shells … and was planning on throwing it out. Then, Barbara came over."

She continued the story for Smith: "I said, 'Let me see that thing. It might be a pearl!' "

Upon closer inspection, the couple realized it was not only a pearl, but a purple one.

"We're finding out there's only a handful on earth," Barbara Krensavage said. "We were excited, biting it and everything."

Some experts estimate that only 1 in 100,000 quahog clams contains a pearl, and 1 in 20 of those pearls is of gem quality. That puts the odds on the Krensavages' find at 1 in 2 million, according to The Providence Journal.

Antoinette Matlins, author of "The Pearl Book: the Definitive Buying Guide," said the Krensavages' pearl, perfectly round and about the size of a large pea, might be valued in the thousands of dollars, though she hasn't seen it. But that estimate could rise depending on the value of two purple quahog pearls featured in a $14 brooch bought five years ago by the partner of Newport antique dealer Alan Golash.

The brooch is included in the American Museum of Natural History's international pearl exhibit, now in Japan. The exhibition will move to Australia for much of 2006, and then to the Persian Gulf and London in 2007.

"You might sell something now for $20,000 or $25,000, which seems like a huge amount for a single pearl," Matlins said, "but then somebody might turn around and bid $1 million for the Alan Golash pearl. Then, the person who sold it for $20,000 or $25,000 would be kicking themselves."

The couple have set the gem in a gold ring — at least for now.

"If it's worth $10,000, we'll probably keep it, it'll be a family treasure," Ted Krensavage said. "But if it's worth more than a quarter million, we might put it up for auction."

But Barbara and Ted's son, Michael, 11, has different thoughts.

They gave the ring to him for getting good grades, and he told Smith he doesn't want to sell the pearl, "When would they ever buy a million dollar gem? If you have one, just keep it. We're not selling it."

"We've been negotiating" with Michael, Ted kidded Smith.

See video about finding a purple quahog pearl and almost discarding it.

Quahog pearls for sale.

More quahog pearls found by folks.

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