Pearls in Arkansas

Pearls in Arkansas have been found in very unlikely places...find out why this is possible.

During the pearling excitement in Arkansas, a considerable portion of the choice pearls were found, not in the mussels, but lying loosely in the mud of the shores, indicating that under some circumstances, as agitation by freshets or floods, the loose pearls are shaken out from the Unios.

Arkansas Pearling
Looking for Pearls in Arkansas

In some instances, indeed, the pearls were found upon or in the soil at some distance from streams or lakes. It is reported that in October, 1897, Mr. J. W. McIntosh, of the northern part of Lonoke County, while digging post-holes in the old bed of Cypress Bayon, found a number of pearls, some "as large as a 44-caliber Winchester ball," lying within the shells at a depth of a foot and a half below the surface. This peculiar occurrence is partly explained by the wide extension of the waters in flood times over the low region, and by the shifting of streams and the isolation of cut-offs.

Stray pearls in Arkansas have been found in many other odd places, as in the viscera of chickens and ducks, in the stomachs of fish, and even within a pig's mouth. It is not an uncommon scene in the pealing region to see men raking over the muck in hog-pens along the river banks, hoping there to find a stray pearl lost from the mussels with which the animals had been fed by persons who had indeed "cast pearls before swine." It is related that a Negro near Marley, Illinois, in this way secured a pearl weighing 118 grains, for which he received $2,000 from a St. Louis buyer, and which was ultimately sold to a New York dealer for $5,000.

During the height of the excitement about pearls in Arkansas in 1897, the speculative spirit was so rife that many persons--unwilling to engage in the labor of fishing--purchased unopened musssels from the fishermen in the venture for aleatory profits. The price for these ranged from twenty-five cents to $2 per hundred, and fluctuated rapidly, according to the immediate results, increasing several hundred per cent, in a few minutes under the influence of a valuable find. One fisherman sold mussels to the value of $28 in one day, and thought he had made an excellent bargain until over $1,000 worth of pearls were revealed when the shells were opened.

As a rule the freshwater pearls do not rank so high in value as those from oriental seas, since ordinarily they are not so lustrous. However, some of them have sold at very high figures. A round pearl weiging 103 grains, found in Black River, ARkansas, in 1904, was eventually sold for $25,000.

Read more about pearls in Arkansas.
Where else are natural pearls found?
More about natural pearl sources.
Learn about American freshwater mussels.

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