This gem is found in the Melo Shell. I say “found”, but few are lucky enough to do so and Vincent Pardieu (GIA), who took us to meet a dealer had previous spent several days trying to find them, right at the source. He took us to a Melo collector and trader in Hanoi, who estimated that 1 in 10,000 Melo shells may contain pearls. They are often found by fishermen, who catch the large shells to sell the meat but so rare are the pearls, that fishermen seldom recognise them. Many Melo bare the scars of a fisherman’s knife. In order to improve her chances of obtaining these rare pearls, she travels to Ha Long Bay Island to teach the fishermen about them and how to find them. She says that many Melo pearls are taken out of their shell with the meat, and cooked before they are recognised….and tens of thousands of dollars burnt.
One of the most impressive we saw was a pale yellow pearl. We were told that having been bought from the fisherman, it had changed colour over the course of a week. The dealer was rightly dismayed to see it become paler but as it turned out, the pearl had been marinated and cooked in soy sauce for several hours in the shell before it’s discovery. The paling was taking it back to its natural colour rather than a treatment wearing off….but there are treatments to look out for.
Below is a large black pearl, which we saw in the same office and which Michele fell in love with.