‘Very rare’ pearl found in clam by kids along a river in Maryland, officials say

A couple of kids “enjoying the outdoors” along a Maryland river made a rare discovery.

The sixth and seventh graders were at Winters Run in Harford County when they opened a freshwater clam and found a pearl inside, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said in a Facebook post on Sunday, Aug. 28.

“This is obviously very rare, so these kids got lucky,” the department said.

The pearl was hidden in a Corbicula clam, a non-native species found in Maryland waters, according to the department. Also called Asian clams or golden clams, the species lives on “the muddy or sandy bottoms” of fresh bodies of water, Maryland State Archives said.

The species was first discovered in the United States in the late 1930s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s believed to have been “imported as a food source” and is now widespread throughout the country.

The clams have a yellow-green shell with white spots and concentric rings.

All clams can produce pearls, the DNR said. But only some saltwater clams and freshwater mussels are used to “commercially grow cultured gem-grade pearls,” according to Smithsonian Magazine.

“Pearl is a word we use for a shiny creation that a mollusk produces,” Gabriela Farfan, an environmental mineralogist and curator of gems and minerals at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, told the magazine in 2021. “If debris gets stuck in a mollusk and they can’t flush it out, they coat this debris in their own mother of pearl or shell material.”

Chris Meyer, a curator of mollusks at the museum, told the magazine that only some mollusks coat the debris in a substance that “gives gem-quality pearls their opalescent sheen.”

People on Facebook were excited about the kids’ discovery in Maryland.

“I have been wanting to find a pearl my whole life,” one person commented on the post. “This is amazing.”

“How cool is that,” another person wrote.

Harford County is in northern Maryland, near the Pennsylvania state line.

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