A struggling fisherman was ecstatic after finding a Melo pearl – one of the most expensive in the world on a beach in Thailand.
Hatchai Niyomdecha, 37, was picking up oyster shells with his family when they stumbled upon the rare shell in Nakhon Si Thammarat province on January 27.
Hatchai found a discarded buoy ball washed ashore with three beautiful shells sticking to it so he called his brother Worachat Niyomdecha, 35, to have a look.
The two lads picked the shells off the ball and took it home so they could use the carapace to decorate their bird houses.
They gave it to their father, Bangmad Niyomdecha, 60, and asked him to clean it.
When the pensioner had opened the third shell, he found an orange pearl that was slightly bigger than a 10 pence coin.
He called his wife, Worachat Niyomdecha, 35, and his two boys to inspect the beautiful 7.68-gram precious gem with him and decided to check its value the next day.
They asked about the pearl among their neighbours who flocked to their home after finding out that what they found is an extremely expensive pearl from a large snail called Melo Melo.
Hatchai, who spotted the shells, claimed he had a strange dream a few days before finding the precious gem.
He said: ‘An old man in white with a long mustache told me to come to the beach so I can receive a gift. I think he led me to finding the pearl.
‘I want to sell the pearl for the highest price. The money won’t just change my life, it will change my destiny. My whole family will have better lives.’
He believes that the old man could be a deity who wanted to help him get out of poverty as the pearl could be worth as much as 10 million Baht (332,762 USD).
A few days later, a wealthy businessman from another province heard about the pearl and offered to buy the pearl for one million baht (33,276 USD) but the family refused.
Another persistent luxury items collector increased the offer to five million baht but the family still declined, instead believing that they could get a much higher price for it.
A third potential buyer, this time from China, is now negotiating with the family to take the pearl for 10 million Baht – its expected price – but he wanted to see for himself if it was a genuine Melo.
He is expected to fly to Thailand next week but will have to undergo the required two-week quarantine and other guidelines before reaching the pearl owner’s home.
Melo pearls range from orange to tan to brown in colour – with orange being the most expensive shade. They are usually found in South China Sea and Andaman Sea off the coast of Burma and are produced by predatory sea snails called Volutidae.
The place where the melo pearl was found, Nakhon Si Thammarat, has a coast on the Gulf of Thailand. Ocean currents from the South China Sea often lead there.