Measuring six inches in diameter, the Palawan Princess is a simply extraordinary sight. Bonhams are now offering the pearl as part of their upcoming Natural History sale.
Formed in a Tridacna Gigas, or giant clam, in waters near the Philippines, the pure white gem has wrinkles and an overall shape which is very reminiscent of a human brain. The lot is accompanied by half of the original clamshell which makes an interesting comparison.
By the standards of giant clams, which can live for several decades and grow to 4.5 feet, the shell is comparatively small, reflecting the fact that it devoted most of its energy to growing the pearl.
A much larger giant clam shell is on offer in the same auction, listed at $7,000-9,000.
Weighing 5lbs, or 11,339 carats, the enormous pearl is the second largest pearl ever known, after the Pearl of Allah which resembled a turbaned head. The gem is non-nacreous, which means that it is not built up from layers of nacre (mother of pearl) to form a gem made from aragonite. In this case the main material is calcite.
Bonhams have valued the Princess at $300,000-400,000, and the opportunity to obtain anything remotely like it is unlikely to occur again in a collector's lifetime. The sale takes place on December 6