Have you ever had Conch Fritters or Stewed Conch?
They are delicious specialties found in the Caribbean and thoroughly enjoyed in the Virgin Islands!
Done right, they’re scrumptious!
Folks just loved them, especially with a light dipping sauce!
Processing the conch is not a fun job though!
There’s a special technique to extract the conch meat without totally destroying the shell.
Despite the challenge, thousands of pounds of conch meat is processed every year.
Imagine the expression on a fisherman’s face when he discovers a shiny pink bead sandwiched between the rubbery folds.
It’s the discovery of a lifetime!
He may not have realized it, but the small pink bead is called a pink pearl, one of the rarest “pearls” in the world.
Have you ever heard of conch pearls? I never have.
Conch pearls are extremely rare.
One is found in every 10,000 Queen conch mollusks.
As a result, they are incredibly valuable. Even a pea-sized gem can fetch as much as $120,000!
Scientists have been trying to farm the pearls without much success.
In nature, the pearls form when a sand grain or other irritant gets lodged inside.
A Pearl’s Discovery
In 1894, a pink pearl was discovered in the Bahamas, the “finest ever brought to light”.
The pearl was nearly as large as a pigeon’s egg and of the same shape!
It had no flaw or blemish and was a perfect color.
It was sold to a local agent for over $2,000.00, the highest price paid for one in the islands.
St. Thomas Pearls
Twelve years later, another discovery was made. This time, in St. Thomas.
With the purchase of five cents worth of conch, a small pearl was found when a fisherman began to scrape away the unusable parts.
Word spread through town and soon an eager buyer stepped forward with an offer.
He happened to be a collector of rare ornaments and admired the find.
He approached the lucky finders and offered them $6.00, which they accepted.
In today’s value, that’s the equivalent of paying $157.00, a bargain for such a rarity!
Maybe the next time you’re watching fishermen clean conch, you’ll take a closer look. 🔎
To learn more about Conch pearls, visit amazon.com
The coffee table book below is a great resource with lots of photographs.
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