WILMINGTON, Del. – A Pennsylvania man found a rare treasure while on vacation in Delaware last week, and not on the beach.
Scott Overland, 37, was dining with his wife and two children at Salt Air in Rehoboth Beach on Aug. 9 when he found a purple pearl in his $14 littleneck clams appetizer.
“I thought I bit down on a piece of shell or something,” he said. “My wife thought it was a piece of candy because it looked like those candy dots.”
The pearl had a flat side, like the candy buttons, but when Overland looked at the shell, he saw the indentation where it grew.
“We had never heard of a pearl in a clam. I always thought they came in oysters,” he said.
Pearls do indeed grow in clams and several other mollusks. In this case, the clam was a northern quahog grown by Cherrystone Aqua Farms in the Chesapeake Bay. Salt Air staff confirmed the origin of the clam, and Ballard Clams and Oysters spokesman Tim Parsons confirmed the species.
Quahogs produce non-nacreous, porcelain-like pearls, according to the Gemological Institute of America. They are rarely spherical, and buttonlike specimens such as Overland’s are the most common. They range in color from white to brown to many shades of purple.
Parsons said he hears reports of diners finding pearls in their clams or oysters two or three times a year.
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“Usually, it’s over a dentist claim,” he joked. “But you can definitely get it graded, and they are worth money.”
Ballard, Cherrystone Aqua Farms’ parent company, harvests 60 million to 80 million clams a year in the Chesapeake. The fifth-generation shellfish company has multiple sites in the bay.
“We’ve had some guys that have worked for the company a long time, over 20 years, that have two or three (pearls),” Parsons said.
For Overland, the “craziest part" of his story was that he nearly sent the clams back because they came with a pepper garnish. His wife isn’t a fan of peppers.
“I guess sometimes you get rewarded for not being a pain at restaurants!” he said.
Overland plans to have the pearl appraised but may hold on to it.
“It’s a fun story and a fun memory.”
This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Man finds purple pearl in clam at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, restaurant