Eleven-year-old Kyle Peters of West Tisbury reached down and took a nice big quahog out of the bowl — he liked the big ones, the “chowdahs” — he even had a special way of steaming them with a little vinegar that for some reason made them open up all the way. Kyle put the meat of the quahog in his mouth, bit down and promptly spit it out.
“It felt weird,” said Kyle. “I thought I bit into a rock or a bug or something but when I looked closer I thought, ‘It looks like a pearl.’”
Kyle’s grandmother, Tricia Peters, was sitting with Kyle, and she didn’t think this little purple and white pea-sized stone could possibly be a pearl — pearls come from oysters, not quahogs, right? — but Kyle wasn’t buying it. So they took a picture and sent it to Kyle’s dad, Kevin Peters Jr. of Oak Bluffs, and it didn’t take long for them all to agree, this sure was a pearl, and a pretty good-sized one at that.
Earlier that day, Kyle and his dad had been out on their first family beach trip of the summer. And for Kyle, a beach trip wouldn’t be a beach trip without doing some clamming or quahogging.
Kyle has a knack for shellfishing, he once got about 140 clams in a day. But this day belonged to quahogging; Kyle liked to dig them out with his feet. Between him and his dad, they got about two big bags full and split them up. Kyle is a little cagey about revealing his secret spot where he got “the Lucky One,” as he calls the quahog with the pearl: “I got it in the water,” he said.
After Mr. Peters saw the pictures Kyle had sent him, he checked out quahog pearls on the Internet and was surprised at what he found. For one thing, they were rare — one source said as rare as one in 3 million. And for another thing, they could be valuable — he saw quahog pearls that were $12,000 and more.
Kyle did some researching of his own, and found that pearls are formed in the quahog when something gets inside the shell to irritate it. Like a grain of sand, or even a worm. The quahog then puts a coating around it and that can form into a pearl.
He also learned that the darker pearls, the deep blues and purples, had the most value. What’s interesting about Kyle’s pearl is that it’s half white and half purple. Neither Kyle nor his dad saw any pearls online that looked quite like theirs. They both hoped that that might make it worth more money.
Kyle’s dad took the pearl into Vineyard Haven and showed it to a couple of jewelers. They both agreed it was the real thing, but that it would take a special buyer and they weren’t willing to say how much they thought it was worth. But let’s just say someone came around and was willing to pay $12,000 for it — what would Kyle do with that money?
“It’s going for your college education, right, Kyle?” said Mr. Peters.
“Yup,” replied Kyle.
But Kyle is not one to sit idly by waiting for a buyer to materialize. Kyle has six fish tanks with bubblers in them, and he’s learning to plant grains of sand into quahogs so he can create his own pearls.
Kyle’s getting into aquafarming.