February 2023

In Search of the Largest Pearls in the World

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The very mention of the largest pearls in the world brings to the mind images of intrepid adventurers and fearless pearl hunters retrieving them from perilous places located in some of the remotest corners of the planet. Those with a more fertile imagination could even conjure up encounters with ravenous sharks in the South Sea waters, or walking across deep ravines on precarious rope bridges, or fending off venomous spiders and more, in order to find these treasured pearls.

Well, whatever has been said so far might appeal to the Indiana Jones in you, but the reality is, we’re afraid, a tad less exciting. In your search for the largest pearls in the world, you can easily leave out the shark bit, the gorges and the spiders, and also most of the associated perils. Large pearls are regularly cultivated nowadays by pearl harvesters. The very large ones among them, though much fewer in number, are not as rare as they are often thought to be.

Historically speaking, the largest natural pearl in the world is the Pearl of Lao Tzu, also known as the Pearl of Allah. Discovered by a Filipino deep sea diver in the waters surrounding the Philippines, it measures an astounding 24 cm in diameter and weighs around 6.4 Kgs. The Pearl of Lao Tzu, in spite of all its grandeur and glory, is not considered as a gemstone pearl. Rather it is looked upon as a natural curiosity.

In usual cases, the size of a pearl is directly linked to its price. In other words, the larger the pearl is, the costlier it becomes. However, it is important to remember that in the realm of pearls, size is not everything. The value of a pearl is determined by many other factors such as its shape, color, the thickness of the nacre and so on. The choice of a size is also a subjective matter. A very large pearl may sometimes appear as an aberration in the scheme of the overall design and could be intentionally left out on favor of smaller pearls.

Among cultured pearls, South Sea pearls are of the largest sizes. Typically speaking, the majority of South Sea pearls that are cultured today are about 13.0 mm in diameter. It is interesting to remember in this respect that in comparison, most Akoya cultured pearls, another popular and renowned variety of pearls, range in size from 6.0 mm to 7.0 mm. Some Akoya pearls can sometimes reach sizes of 9.5 mm – 10 mm. These pearls are very rare and are quite expensive. Former First Lady Barbara Bush is said to own such pearls.

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