An extremly rare melo pearl. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010
The melo pearl weighing 224.30 carats of orange hue, 31.66 x 30.76mm. Estimate $180,000 - $250,000. Price Realized $722,500
Accompanied by report no. 6102605844 dated 22 October 2009 from GIA Gemological Institute of America stating that the melo pearl is natural, saltwater, with no indication of treatment
Notes: The melo pearl is produced by the mollusc Melo amphora, a close relative of the conch, but living in the waters of the South China Sea rather than the Carribean. The 'pearls', like those of the conch, are created by calcareous concretion, resulting in similarly beautiful flame-like structures. The major difference lies in their colour, which ranges from pale yellow to orange, compared with the peach to pink tones of the conch.
Melo pearl can very occasionally be found in the extremely deep waters off the coast of Vietnam. The Emperors would send their boats out in search of the more commercially available white pearls, and on infrequent occasions they would return with a prized Melo pearl. Most were small, misshapen and white or brown in colour. Few were round, even less were an attractive orange colour and the combination of round and orange was a great treasure. Since the Sui dynasty (AD 589-618) only the Emperors wore yellow or orange and the symbol of a dragon chasing an orange pearl was continually used by the Emperors throughout their palaces and even on their royal robes.
The importance of the Melo pearl as a heavenly object cannot be overstated and consequently they could not be defiled by drilling, thus they were never worn. Only the immediate family of the Emperor and perhaps a few privileged dignitaries ever caught a glimpse of them. So it is no wonder that Melo pearls remained completely unknown to most of the world.
This remarkable melo pearl is the second to be sold in Dubai (Cf Christie's Dubai 31 January 2007, Lot 154) and one of only 9 melo pearls ever offered for sale at auction. The pearl weighs 224.30 carats and is of almost perfectly circular form, a good orange colour and without the slightest blemish. The rare size makes this the second largest melo pearl recorded. It is larger and more perfect than any of the 23 pearls that recently came from the family of the last Vietnamese Emperor and is a wonderous creation of the natural world.
Christie's. Jewels and Watches : The Dubai Sale Including The Fabulous Parures: An Important Private Collection, 27 October 2010, Dubai www.christies.com
An extremly rare melo pearl pendant, mounted by ISSA. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2007
The round melo pearl weighing 195.82 carats to the diamond-set spiral mount and fine-link diamond neckchain, 45.1 cm. long
Signed Issa, Paris. Estimate $150,000 - $200,000. Price Realized $254,200
Accompanied by report No. 010727 dated 10th January 2005 from the Gem Research Swiss Lab (GRS) Stating that the melo pearl was found to be natural, yellowish-orange colour
Christie's. Contemporary Jewels and Watches, 31 January 2007, Dubai www.christies.com
Very large Melo orange-hued pearl. photo courtesy Bonhams
discovered in the salt walters near Vietnam, sold for $60,000. The pearl weights approximately 125.29 carats and measures 25.2 milimeters at Bonhams & Butterfields, June 22 2008. www.bonhams.com