The Biggest Pearl in the World

Legend has it, in 1934, a young Muslim boy pearl-diving off the coast of Palawan Island of the Philippines made an amazing discovery. The boy, on his maiden diving trip, saw a humongous pearl inside a giant clam; when he went to retrieve it, the shell closed on him, drowning him.

The other members of his boat tried to save him but it was too late by the time they managed to pull him aboard. When they opened the hand on his lifeless body, they discovered he held the biggest pearl to have ever been found.

Today, almost a century later, no other pearl has yet to beat the record of this giant weighing in at a little more than 14 pounds (6.4 kg) and measuring 9.45 inches (24 cm).

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Interestingly, this pearl is not considered a ‘pearl’ at all by many due to its non-nacreous quality which means it does not exhibit the iridescence pearls are known for.

The interior of a giant clam has no nacre (mother of pearl.) Instead, it is porcellaneous, like a china plate hence the appearance of this strange looking ‘pearl.’

In 1939, the pearl was bought by an American named Wilburn Cobb who told several versions of the pearl’s origins. Cobb, at first, told a story of saving a tribal chief’s son from malaria in the Philippines and was given it as a token of gratitude. The pearl was known as the Pearl of Allah at this time because of its resemblance to the turbaned head of the Prophet Muhammad.

Later in 1969, Cobb began recounting an amended version of the story by saying he met a Chinese man named Li at a Ripley’s Museum exhibition in 1939 (where the pearl was on display) who claimed to be a direct descendent of the Chinese sage Lao Tzu. The man told him the pearl was at first grown in a much smaller clam around a jade amulet carved with the faces of Buddha, Confucious and Lao Tzu. The amulet was inserted by a disciple of Lao Tzu over 2,500 years ago following his master’s instructions. The pearl was supposed to symbolize the three different philosophies living in harmony. The pearl was then moved to larger and larger clams over the centuries due to its size. It is alleged that wars have been fought over the artifact and Li’s family sent it (still inside the clam) to the Philippines for safe-keeping in 1750 where it was lost in a storm off the coast of Palawan Island.

Phew! Sounds like the plot of a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road to …”  movie. Well, whatever the truth is to this pearl, it sure is fascinating stuff! And technically, it is the largest pearl ever found still, to this day.

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