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Nov 4, 2019 1:43 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Clammer Comes Across Rare Purple Pearl

Bruce Niles raked a clam out of Cold Spring Pond that contained a purple pearl. GREG WEHNER
Nov 5, 2019 1:23 PM


A recreational shellfisherman who was feasting on his catch of the day — which he made into linguine with clam sauce — bit into something quite rare: a purple pearl that could be worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

Bruce Niles, 73, of Westchester, owns a summer home on the banks of Cold Spring Pond in Shinnecock Hills. Though he built the house in 1990, Mr. Niles has been visiting Southampton ever since he was a kid, and taking advantage of the bounties found in the pond.

To celebrate the end of the summer season, Mr. Niles and his family shucked a bunch of clams, cooked up a batch of linguine, and mixed them together on August 24.

As they were eating, Mr. Niles said, he felt something in his mouth. He realized it was a pearl.

“It was purple,” he said. “We once found one in a mussel that was kind of black, and we just threw it out. This one, I knew, was different, because it was from a clam, and I had never seen one before — and we’ve opened thousands of them.”

He described the pearl as being both light and dark purple, like the inside of a clam.

The pearl itself, Mr. Niles added, is the size of a pea and looks exactly like wampum — a currency used by Native Americans, made from the inside of a clam — and it is perfectly round.

Out of all of the years Mr. Niles has clammed, he has never seen a pearl come from a clam that he plucked out of the pond behind his house.

His parents had a cottage along Cold Spring Pond — he called it a houseboat on land — that they purchased in 1954.

Whenever the family stayed in the house, they would go out into the pond and collect shellfish such as oysters, mussels and clams, then cook them up and eat like kings and queens.

The tradition continued when Mr. Niles built a home along the pond.

“My whole family — I have a brother, a sister and a bunch of grandkids now — and we all clam, we all raise oysters, we get the mussels from the beach, and we’re constantly clamming,” he said.

Mr. Niles guesstimates that he has clammed in the pond for between 50 and 60 years.

“We eat clams,” he said. “We’ve eaten more clams than anyone in the world, I think.”

He figures he and his family has shucked well over 10,000 clams during his lifetime, but never, he said, has he ever seen a pearl like the one he found this year.

Mr. Niles said he had dinner with Kim Tetrault of Cornell Cooperation’s SPAT program, and was told the pearl could be worth five figures, putting it at $10,000 at least.

“I was told it was worth a lot of money,” he said. “I don’t really care about the money, though. I’m not doing anything with it.”

Mr. Niles added that he did not really believe the pearl could be worth five figures — maybe four, but not five — and if it were worth that much, maybe there would have to be numerous pearls to make it worth while.

But if it were worth five figures, he said, he would still have to find a buyer.

When asked what he would do if someone offered him $20,000 for the pearl, his tone changed a bit.

“I’d take it,” he said. “We don’t need the money. I have six grandkids. Maybe I’d divide it up for them.

“Regardless, it’s exciting, it’s really pretty and it’s unusual,” he added.

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Fascinating.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Nov 9, 19 2:24 PM
Have found white and purple before, never saw all purple... Nice treasure to keep.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Nov 9, 19 3:36 PM