Routine day of quahogging yields surprise find of 10 carat pearl

Routine day of quahogging yields surprise find of 10 carat pearl


WESTERLY — When he and his wife aren’t baby-sitting for their grandchildren, Harold “Pete” Teague can often be found at one of the region’s ponds with a 9-foot rake in his hand — looking for clams.

It’s a pastime Teague, who lives in Bradford, has enjoyed since the 1970s. But one afternoon about a year ago, as he was shucking that day’s half-bushel (the state limit), he popped open a clam to find not one but two lavender-tinted pearls. One was tiny and one more substantial. He called to his wife.

“I said, Hey babe, check this out,” Teague said.

A little later he called his neighbor, a commercial fisherman, and explained what he had found. The friend told Teague to retrieve the shell from which the two pearls came. Teague found the shell, with its telltale indentation, in the pile in the backyard where he discards his shells.

“I knew which one it was,” he said.

Since his find, Teague, who is retired from a career as an engineering assistant at Pfizer, has slowly researched the world of pearls to determine how rare the ones he found are and their potential value. He had the two pieces analyzed by the Gemological Institute of America in New York, which confirmed them as natural pearls from a northern quahog clam. The larger of the two is 10.37 carats and the smaller 2.16 carats.

The 75-year-old Teague also took a trip up to Boston to show his lustrous items to the staff at Suzanne Dines Inc., a jeweler specializing in pearls and beads. From what Teague has determined so far, the pearls are “very unique and rare items.”

Determining the larger pearl’s value has been difficult. “It’s hard to get anyone to give you a value,” he said.

But his research revealed that a Massachusetts man had sold a similar but smaller pearl for several thousand dollars, Teague said.

Joseph Nigrelli of Nigrelli’s Jewelry on High Street said the value of a pearl is, to some degree, in the eye of the beholder.

“I say they have a value and a story, and to the owner of the pearl it has a value,” Nigrelli said.

Monetary value?

But when it comes to selling such an item, Nigrelli said, “You can’t say there is a monetary value because I don’t know anyone that would be interested, at least not as of yet. If I found one in a shell around here I would set it in a piece of jewelry, present it to my wife and let her tell the story of how I found it,” Nigrelli said.

That was Teague’s first thought, but his wife, Dolores, demurred.

“What am I going to do with it? I have plenty of jewelry and I don’t work anymore so I rarely wear it. And we don’t have any daughters or granddaughters,” she said.

And so, Harold is holding on to his lucky find for a bit longer. Eventually, he said, he’ll probably engage an auction house and sell it.

This is not the first time Teague has enjoyed a stroke of good fortune. In 1993 he won $100,000 in the Connecticut lottery.

Like a successful fisherman who protects the source of the last big trout or bass landed, Teague clammed up when asked which pond the magical clam came from.

“I’ll just say a pond in the area,” he said.

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