The Pearl of Allah

The giant clam yielded its 14-pound pearl only after slaying a native diver trapped when its great jaws snapped shut.

The Panglima speaks

The Panglima laid his hand on the pearl and said, “Mr. Cobb, one week before you came, I knew that my son was mortally ill. I have seen so many of my tribe die of the disease, I was terrified. Quinine, the only remedy that we know, did not seem to do any good. I was helpless, I did not know what to do. That night, holding this pearl in my hands, I prayed to Allah for help. In my prayers I vowed to Allah that however much I valued this pearl I would willingly give it to anyone that he could send to help me save my son. As though to test my sincerity, you came.

“I remembered that two years ago you tried to buy the pearl. I wondered then if you were the man that would save my son from his affliction, but you were a Christian, and it hardly seemed possible. Then I took you to the sick boy’s room, and when Pula, who had been delirious for three days, saw you, recognized you and asked you to help, I thought that you might be the one.

“Well, my friend, you saved my son’s life. Mr. Cobb, we are just on the outskirts of the jungle, where generally life is bought with life. This pearl was dearly paid for with the life of a young man. Now you have bought the pearl from me with the life of my only son as your payment. What more could a father ask? You have saved my son, and you have earned your reward. Here, my friend, claim this, your pearl.”

Today the pearl is on display at Ripley’s exhibit on Broadway, where it may be seen for perhaps a month longer.

A remarkable specimen

As Dr. Roy Waldo Miner of the American Museum, who has examined it, explained, this specimen, while so many times larger than any of the pearls we are familiar with, can be truly called a pearl. It was formed on the inside of a shell as all pearls are, presumably by some foreign body being imbedded in the shell material, perhaps when the shell clamped suddenly shut. The natives who found it, who are keen observers of natural history and have good opportunity as pearl divers to observe undersea life, believe that the foreign body which started the pearl growing was probably a small piece of brain coral. Some such origin as this is not contradictory to what is known about the formation of pearls. Where it was joined to the clam shell the successive layers can be seen in cross section.

As in any pearl, the surface appearance of this one gets its quality from the inner layer of the clam shell that was its host. The color of this giant pearl is pure lustrous white.

No one can say how old the pearl may be, for, as Doctor Miner points out, no scientific study has yet accurately determined the rate of growth of one of these giant clams. The natives thought that possibly 450 years had passed since the clam was the size of a fist, and that the pearl may have started growth when the clam was 100 years old.

That such a phenomenal pearl should have been found is surely exciting enough, but I constantly wonder over the strange coincidence that the clam which produced it should have taken the life of a native diver and that, even in a part of the world that is surrounded with so much romance and mystery, its story should also have been so remarkably connected with the saving of another life.

Links related to this article:

view counter

Recent Stories

The way they live, the food they eat, and the effect on us

A true but unlikely tale

Story and Photographs by William Rowan

Increasing day length on the early Earth boosted oxygen released by photosynthetic cyanobacteria.

Genomic evidence shows that Denisovans and modern humans may have overlapped in Wallacea.