Pearls are a valuable and highly sought-after natural stone that comes from clams. Despite the value of the pearl, clams are an edible delicacy that you can buy from the store for only around ten dollars. So you might be wondering how likely it is to find the precious material in your store-bought jar.
You can find pearls in store-bought clams. However, it is very rare that you will come across one. Only one in 10,000 clams have naturally occurring pearls in them, and it’s likely that the company selling the clams will check before shipping them out. It isn’t entirely impossible, though.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about pearls and your chances of finding one in your store-bought clams. By the end of the article, you’ll be able to determine if it’s worth your while to comb through jars of store-bought clams in the hopes of making a fortune. Read on!
The Likelihood of Buying Clams With Pearls in Them
There is some dispute as to how common pearls are within clams. Pearls are a biological response to parasites and not a naturally occurring part of the clam. Because of this, only a tiny number of clams will contain a pearl, to begin with.
The probability of finding a pearl in a clam is estimated to be around one in 10,000, but nobody knows for sure. With the average can of clams containing eight to twelve of the sea creature, the math would suggest that you could find a clam containing a pearl if you bought 1,000 jars of the stuff.
As impressive as this would be, there are a few issues with this plan.
Some Pearls Have No or Low Value
The first issue is that not all clams are created equal. For every valuable, perfectly formed pearl inside a clam, there are hundreds of misshapen and broken pearls. These may only go for around $50, leaving you out several thousand dollars. The risk simply is not worth the reward.
The Clams Pass Through Many People Before Getting to You
The other issue is that you won’t be the first person to reach the clams. Across the supply chain, there will be fishermen and warehouse workers who will be equally aware of the potential value of their stock.
If there was one pearl in 10,000 clams, that pearl might have been found already, drastically reducing your odds.
If you’re a big fan of eating clams, then you have a chance of stumbling upon a pearl by chance just by eating several cans across your lifetime. However, if you’re planning on buying hundreds of jars from the store to try and make a return on investment, you’ll likely end up thousands of dollars down with an extraordinary amount of seafood to eat.
Has Anyone Ever Found a Pearl in Their Clams?
Yes, there have been a few instances of people finding valuable pearls in their clams or oysters. Here are a few of the best examples:
- In 2014, a woman found a rare purple pearl in her bag of clams that she had bought to make dinner with. She had spent only $15 on the bag of clams but made nearly $3,000 by selling the beautiful rarity. This is, however, a very rare occurrence, with very few reported cases of store-bought clams containing pearls. However, people have had more luck in restaurants.
- Just last year, a couple from New Jersey were eating at a restaurant when they found a pearl in their meal. They were eating at Lobster House in New Jersey when they made the discovery, which could be worth a few thousand dollars. While this clam wasn’t bought at a grocery store, the story proves that pearls can be found inside edible clams.
- An even luckier man from Pennsylvania found an extremely rare purple pearl inside a clam while dining out in August 2022. The man stands to gain a large sum of money from the discovery due to the pearl’s rarity and condition.
As you can see, finding pearls in your food isn’t entirely unheard of, but the chances are far less than one in 10,000. It definitely isn’t something that you can plan. However, if you’re a big fan of seafood and eat clams regularly, you may stumble upon one by pure luck.
What To Do if You Find a Pearl in Your Clam
If you find a pearl in your clamshell, you should be very careful with it. They are hardy but very small and easy to lose, so you should keep them somewhere safe as soon as you find them.
Preferably, find a small box or something that won’t be accidentally thrown away to keep it in and place it on a high shelf, away from small children.
You should then contact someone to get the pearl appraised. You may find that you want to keep your pearl, but it is worth finding out its actual value before you do so. You may find that the thousand-dollar paycheck is of more use to you than the discovery.
Once you’ve had it appraised, you can choose to sell it or keep it. The choice is entirely yours!
For more information, I have a complete guide on what to do if you find a pearl in an oyster. Learn more about how to keep the pearl safe and who to contact here: What to Do If You Find a Pearl in an Oyster
Why Pearls in Clams are Rare
Because pearls are one of the most beautiful items on earth, you may be surprised to learn how they came to be. Pearls are actually the result of the clam’s response to parasites entering their shell.
That said, pearls are simply a byproduct of an immune response. When a clam is threatened by a parasite or intruder within its shell, its immune response is to cover it in a substance to prevent it from causing any harm to the clam.
This substance is commonly known as the nacre or “mother of pearl” because it will eventually become the pearl. However, this process can take many years and, in the case of bigger pearls, decades.
This is because the clam’s immune system is taking no chances. Once the first layer of mother of pearl has hardened, it will create another layer on top of it, permanently encasing the parasite within the clam. It never stops this process and will continue to add layers of fluid on top until the clam dies.
While the process is slow and often inconsequential, a clam can have a life span of up to 100 years. If you see an especially large pearl, that is potentially the result of a tiny parasite attacking the clam over a century ago, which is what makes these pearls so precious.
Even once a parasite has been encased in the mother of pearl by the clam, it doesn’t guarantee that a valuable pearl will be produced. If the clam is killed too soon following the attack, then no visible pearl will have formed, and even if they do, most will not come out as perfect round spheres. This makes the pearl as we know it incredibly rare and valuable.
How Much Are Pearls Worth?
The most precious pearls are one of the most valuable commodities on earth. A good quality pearl from the right clam can sell for tens of thousands of dollars. However, these are a considerable rarity, and many clam pearls will sell for as little as $50.
There are many variables at play that determine the worth of a pearl.
Perfectly Round and Flawless Pearls Have Higher Value
The most valuable pearls will be large and perfectly round. Most clams don’t produce pearls in this way. Plenty of pearls will be oval in shape or contain imperfections on the surface. They may also have become cracked. These features diminish the value of the pearl severely.
A Pearl’s History Can Contribute to Its Value
A pearl’s value is also determined by the shine on its surface and the importance of a particular pearl. While some pearls can go for several million dollars, this is usually due to their level of historical significance, something that you, unfortunately, can’t gather from a jar of clams.
Larger Pearls are More Valuable
The most expensive pearl on the planet is suspected to be the Giga Pearl, worth an estimated $200 million. The origin of this pearl has remained a mystery due to its age, so it is unlikely that we will ever know how it came about. It weighs 21kg, far heavier than its more common counterparts.
It’s entirely possible to find a pearl in your store-bought clams. Unfortunately, the probability is pretty low. You shouldn’t go to any lengths to try and find a pearl by buying several bags of clams from your local store, as you’ll probably find yourself disappointed about having wasted a lot of money.
Don’t give up hope, though. If you keep eating clams as a regular part of your diet, you never know — you might just stumble upon something. Or head out to a seafood restaurant and try your luck with the appetizers. You’ll be surprised at what you might find.