An impoverished fisherman is in line for a major payout after finding a rare orange Melo pearl worth £250,000 on a beach in
Hatchai Niyomdecha, 37, was picking up shells with his family when they stumbled upon the rare find in Nakhon Si Thammarat province on January 27.
Hatchai found a discarded buoy washed ashore with a number of shell including three snail shells stuck to it, which he brother Worachat Niyomdecha, 35, took home.
They gave the snail shells to their father, Bangmad Niyomdecha, 60, who was in the process of cleaning them when he discovered the pearl – which is about the size of a 10 pence piece.
Melo pearls are formed by sea snails known as Melo Melo and deposited inside their shells, unlike traditional pearls which are found inside oysters.
Hatchai Niyomdecha, 37, discovered a rare orange Melo pearl on a beach in Nakhon Si Thammarat on January 27
Niyomdecha gave the shells to his father, Bangmad, to clean. When Bangmad opened the third shell, he found an orange pearl slightly bigger than a 10 pence peice
What are Melo pearls?
Vivid orange Melo pearls fetch the highest prices
Melo pearls are naturally occurring gems produced under the shell of a large sea snail species known as Melo Melo.
The gems are formed when an irritant gets under the snail’s shell, causing the animal to produce secretions to reduce its discomfort.
Over several years the layers of secretions form a Melo pearl.
The pearls range from brown to yellow or orange, depending on the colour of the snail shell the gem was grown in.
Orange Melo pearls appear in only one of every several thousand shells, meaning these gems fetch the highest prices.
Melo pearls cannot be farmed, like other pearls, because the gem has not yet been successfully cultured to be grown in foreign mussels or clams.
This means the Melo pearl is only found when it naturally occurs.
The gems are found in the South China Sea, in shallow waters off the coast of Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.
Hatchai called his wife, Worachat Niyomdecha, 35, and his two boys to inspect the beautiful 7.68-gram precious gem with him and decided to check its value the next day.
They asked about the pearl among their neighbours who flocked to their home after finding out that what they found is an extremely expensive pearl.
Hatchai, who spotted the shells, claimed he had a strange dream a few days before finding the precious gem.
He said: ‘An old man in white with a long moustache told me to come to the beach so I can receive a gift. I think he led me to finding the pearl.
‘I want to sell the pearl for the highest price. The money won’t just change my life, it will change my destiny. My whole family will have better lives.’
He believes that the old man could be a deity who wanted to help him get out of poverty as the pearl could be worth as much as 10 million Baht (£250,000).
A few days later, a wealthy businessman from another province heard about the pearl and offered to buy the pearl for one million baht (£25,000) but the family refused.
Another persistent luxury items collector increased the offer to five million baht but the family still declined, instead believing that they could get a much higher price for it.
A third potential buyer, this time from China, is now negotiating with the family to take the pearl for 10 million Baht – its expected price – but he wanted to see for himself if it was a genuine Melo.
He is expected to fly to Thailand next week but will have to undergo the required two-week quarantine and other guidelines before reaching the pearl owner’s home.
Melo pearls range from orange to tan to brown in colour – with orange being the most expensive shade.
They are usually found in South China Sea and Andaman Sea off the coast of Burma and are produced by predatory sea snails called Volutidae.
The place where the Melo pearl was found, Nakhon Si Thammarat, has a coast on the Gulf of Thailand.
Ocean currents from the South China Sea often lead there.
The family asked their neighbours about the pearl and realised that the pearl was worth £250,000
The shell with the rare Melo pearl was found attached to a discarded buoy that had washed ashore
Three potential buyers have approached the family for the pearl. The third is expected to fly to Thailand next week and quarantine for two weeks before sealing the deal
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