Chonburi truck driver finds rare pearl worth millions in 50-baht snail

Next time you go shopping at a seafood market, pay close attention to the fresh snails. A fortune may be laying just inside one, as a Chonburi truck driver discovered. Monthien Chansook told reporters today that a hard amber ball found inside the single sea snail he bought among a bundle of cockles at Sri Racha’s Laem Chabang seaport was certified as a genuine melo pearl by the National Gem and Jewelry institute. 

The 40-year-old man said he was negotiating sale of the pearl to clear his debts and return to his hometown in Phetchaburi province for early retirement with his family. A melo pearl is an orange pearl found in about one of every 3,000 bailer shells in the open sea. The pearl can only be discovered in the wild as the clam that produces it can’t be farmed, according to gem institute director Sumet Prasongphongchai.

It’s so rare that its price per carat ranges from US£6,000 (THB180,000) to US£17,000 (THB508,000), depending on the quality. Monthien’s melo pearl weighs 65.57 carats, which means he will likely be a baht millionaire many times over and possibly a dollar millionaire as well, once it’s sold. Monthien’s snail alongside some random and less rewarding cockles he picked up.

The truck driver hit the life-jackpot last week thanks to a combination of his nagging wife and personal curiosity. He stopped at the market’s Rua Hengvari stall because she craved some seafood. There, he scooped up some clams and the one and only bailer shell because he wanted to try out the rare mollusk.

The seller sold it to him for THB50 (USD1.70). The pearl was discovered when his son tried to cut into the boiled clam. With its beautiful appearance, the man did some Googling and learned it could be a melo pearl, so he reached out to local media and went to the local police station to register his find.

It’s been a good year for random sea finds. Earlier this month, a man in Nakhon Sri Thammarat found what’s believed to be a 38-carat melo pearl while collecting seashells near his house on Koh Phet Beach. He was offered as much as THB5 million (US£167,300) by a local businessman, but his luck ran out when he was arrested on drug-related charges before he could complete the deal.

Since then, people nationwide have left no shell unturned along the gulf’s beaches. And let’s not forget the fortune in solidified whale vomit a man found coughed up on a Nakhon Si Thammarat beach in December. Its estimated street value was at least THB100 million (US£3.3 million).

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