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August 24, 2022

Scott Overland and his wife were dining at an upscale eatery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware when they discovered a treasure.

Photo courtesy of Scott Overland

Picture this: You’re out for a nice seafood dinner with your spouse while on a relaxing beach vacation. You spring for a clam appetizer, bite into it after it arrives at your table, sense something hard and unyielding and — whoa! — spit it out only to discover … it’s a pearl! And not just any pearl — a rare purple pearl.

That scene actually unfolded last Tuesday for Phoenixville, Pennsylvania-resident Scott Overland. While on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, the corporate communications executive and his wife went to an upscale local farm-to-table restaurant, Salt Air, and ordered the clam appetizer.

When the dish arrived at the table with a bell-pepper garnish, which the couple had asked the restaurant to leave off, they considered sending it back, but “ultimately decided not to,” Overland recalls. “It was a good lesson that sometimes it pays off to not be a pain at restaurants!”

Initially, after biting down on something hard, Overland thought was a piece of shell, then, after examining the unexpected item, noticed its purple hue, he tells Food Network.

“We initially thought it was something a chef had dropped in, like a bead or piece of candy,” he says. “My wife said it looked like one of those dots candies that you peel off of paper, because the back of it was flat and it was a very light shade of purple.”

Closer inspection of the shell revealed “an indentation in it that looked like something grew in there,” Overland says, which is when the couple realized the beadlike discovery was “probably … something that came from inside the clam.”

Photo courtesy of Scott Overland

Neither Overland nor his wife knew that pearls could be found in clams. “We thought they only came from oysters,” he says. They’d also never seen a purple pearl before.

Pearls produced by quahog clams, are often button-shaped, like Overland’s, and can be white, brown or purple. They are “exceptionally rare” — occurring in about one in 5,000 shells — according to the International Gem Society.

Tim Parsons, a spokesman for Ballard Clams and Oysters, which supplied Salt Air with the northern quahog clam that produced Overland’s purple pearl, said the company generally learns of two or three pearl discoveries per year in the oysters and clams it supplies to restaurants.

“Usually, it’s over a dentist claim,” Parsons quipped to Delaware Online. “But you can definitely get it graded and they are worth money.”

Photo courtesy of Scott Overland

Overland says his initial research has led him to believe the pearl he found could be valued at anywhere from $600 to $16,000. He and his wife plan to get their find appraised in the coming weeks. But even if it’s worth big bucks, the couple may not sell it.

“We are still deciding what to do with it, but we are leaning towards keeping it as a cool family heirloom and something to remember the trip by,” Overland says. “We may turn it into a nice piece of jewelry, but I am going to have to keep eating a lot of clams to find a second one if my wife wants earrings!”

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