Very Large Melo Pearl
Saltwaters near Vietnam
Relatively unknown in the West, even George Kunzs compendium of 1908, The Book of the Pearl, had no references to the rare orange pearl offered here. So few have been found, it is no wonder. The Melo melo is the marine snail that produces orange pearls the color of a ripe papaya. The snail generates a pearl-like substance to enclose foreign bodies, or irritants, entering its shell. Both orange and pink pearls (from the Conch, Strombus gigas) are non-nacreous, meaning they do not have a layer of calcium carbonate on their outer surface as white pearls do. Instead, they display a fiery, porcelain-like surface, giving them a unique beauty not possessed by other varieties of pearls. A relative of the conch, the Melo melo volutidae is also a gastropod. It is found in the waters of picturesque Halong Bay (Meaning Bay of Dragons), along the northern coast of Vietnam. The Melo volute is found in such deep waters almost 15 hours from the shoreline, although edible, it was not typically fished for food.
Several thousand Melo volutes would have to be harvested for a single pearl to be found, particularly a fine quality pearl of any significant size. The Vienamese Emperors valued the pearl highly and sent ships to search for the Melo shell. In the Pacific, the shell is regarded as a sacred object by Buddhists, appearing in much religious imagery. The pearl was an expression of perfection in Buddhist thought as it requires no enhancement or alteration by man when it emerges from its shell, unlike gemstones which require faceting by man to reveal their beauty.
The present pearl, of very large size, exhibits a desirable spherical shape and a classic rich papaya color. It is of course undrilled (as all melos are) which shows off its excellent flame pattern and fine polish to greater advantage.
Weighing approximately 125.29 carats and measuring 25.2mm