Gemologists have confirmed that a small orange stone found by a Thai truck driver in his £1 sea snail snack is a rare Melo pearl that could be worth more than £70,000.
Monthian Jansuk, 40, found the rare orange Melo pearl inside seafood after paying 50 baht (£1.20) for the ‘apple snail’ shell from a market near his home in Chonburi province, Thailand, on February 10.
Officials yesterday confirmed that the gem is indeed an extremely rare Melo pearl, weighing 65.57 carats (13.11 grams).
A Thai truck driver claims he has found a rare orange Melo pearl inside seafood he bought from a market
Monthian Jansuk, 40, paid 50 baht (£1.20) for the ‘apple snail’ shell from a market near his home in Chonburi province
Experts said the stone’s value is as much as someone would be willing to pay – but market prices could be thousands of dollars per carat, depending on the quality. Similar pearls are selling for $1,700 (£1,226) per carat.
But the humble trucker, who never had more than a few hundred dollars to his name, said he was happy to sell the pearl for $33,350 (£24,047), just one third of the estimated price.
He said: ‘I knew as soon as I saw the pearl that it was special. It was my instinct. So I’m happy that we have the certificate to prove it.
‘I’ve put the pearl in a safe at the bank and we will sell it, but we’re not a in a hurry. This is like winning the lottery, but I will keep working for now. If we can sell for a good price, I will retire and spend the time with my family.’
A certificate of authenticity was issued by a local public organisation called The Gem and Jewelry Institute of Thailand. They confirmed the pearl was 100 per cent genuine and gave it a rating of 65.57 carats.
The worker and his wife, Wasana, 44, found the orange stone after boiling the snail and eating it with their son who bit into something hard.
Monthian’s discovery came just weeks after a fisherman found a similar gem worth £250,000 on a beach.
The trucker had also bought half a kilo of fresh fish, prawns and clams, which they grilled over hot coals.
The family said they were shocked when their son spat out a beautiful orange pearl the size of a coin and weighing 7 grams.
They first thought it was just a ‘snail egg’ but realised it may have been one of the rarest pearls in the world, an orange melo pearl, after seeing news of another find last month.
The family said they were shocked when their son spat out a beautiful orange pearl the size of a coin and weighing 7 grams
They first thought it was just a ‘snail egg’ but realised it may have been one of the rarest pearls in the world
The delighted father is now having the suspected pearl authenticated but believes he could earn hundreds of thousands of pounds for it.
He said: ‘My family and neighbours all gathered to take a look at the stone and agreed that it was something we’ve never seen before.
‘Of course, we want to make sure that it is one of the expensive pearls, but I have an instinct that we could earn a lot of money for it.
It comes just weeks after Hatchai Niyomdecha, 37, discovered a similar pearl (pictured) on a beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat on January 27
Niyomdecha gave the shells to his father, Bangmad, to clean. When Bangmad opened the third shell, he found an orange pearl slightly bigger than a 10 pence peice
The family asked their neighbours about the pearl and realised that the pearl was worth £250,000
What are Melo pearls?
Vivid orange Melo pearls fetch the highest prices
Melo pearls are naturally occurring gems produced under the shell of a large sea snail species known as Melo Melo.
The gems are formed when an irritant gets under the snail’s shell, causing the animal to produce secretions to reduce its discomfort.
Over several years the layers of secretions form a Melo pearl.
The pearls range from brown to yellow or orange, depending on the colour of the snail shell the gem was grown in.
Orange Melo pearls appear in only one of every several thousand shells, meaning these gems fetch the highest prices.
Melo pearls cannot be farmed, like other pearls, because the gem has not yet been successfully cultured to be grown in foreign mussels or clams.
This means the Melo pearl is only found when it naturally occurs.
The gems are found in the South China Sea, in shallow waters off the coast of Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.
Source: Obsessed by Pearls
‘I’m so glad I bought it. The pearl could change my life.’
Last month, a struggling fisherman found a Melo pearl while picking up oysters on a beach.
Hatchai Niyomdecha, 37, was offered up to 10 million Baht (£256k) for the 7.68-gram precious gem.
The Thai fisherman was picking up shells with his family when they stumbled upon the rare find in Nakhon Si Thammarat province on January 27.
He found a discarded buoy washed ashore with a number of shell including three snail shells stuck to it, which his brother Worachat Niyomdecha, 35, took home.
They gave the snail shells to their father, Bangmad Niyomdecha, 60, who was in the process of cleaning them when he discovered the pearl – which is about the size of a 10 pence piece.
But its sale was delayed after he was allegedly caught celebrating the find by having a meth party with friends at his home in Nakhon Si Thammarat province on February 5.
Police reportedly found thousands of oral methamphetamine tablets at the man’s house after being contacted by his neighbours who complained about the loud music and claimed they could smell drugs.
Niyomdecha denied that the boxes were his but when the police ran a forensic test on the packages – they allegedly found his fingerprint all over the boxes.
Police Colonel Chokdee Srimuang said they are investigating the fisherman over the unusual amount of drugs and also looking into the involvement of his family members who lived with him.
Niyomdecha denied the drug allegations. He was taken to the police station and held in custody while being questioned.
Melo pearls range from orange to tan to brown in colour – with orange being the most expensive shade.
They are usually found in South China Sea and Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar and are produced by predatory sea snails called Volutidae.