Fisherman's whopper catch: 34kg pearl

An undated photo provided by the Puerto Princesa Tourism Office shows the pearl tipping the scales at 34kg. It was found 10 years ago by a fisherman, who did not know it was worth millions.
An undated photo provided by the Puerto Princesa Tourism Office shows the pearl tipping the scales at 34kg. It was found 10 years ago by a fisherman, who did not know it was worth millions.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

The last thing that a fisherman who found what may be the world's largest pearl wants is to be known as the man who found it.

"He's very shy, and he's very wary of the unwanted attention," Philippine tourism officer Aileen Amurao told The Straits Times yesterday. She said he is afraid fame might bring too many problems with it: kin, neighbours and friends asking for money, for instance.

The man had found the pearl 10 years ago in the seas surrounding the western island province of Palawan, 600km south of the capital Manila.

At 30cm wide, 67cm long and weighing 34kg, the gem is larger and heavier than the current record-holder, the Pearl of Lao Tzu, also known as the Pearl of Allah, and also found off Palawan.

Its value is estimated at around US$100 million (S$135 million), based on the US$35 million appraised value for the Pearl of Lao Tzu, which weighs just 6.4kg, but has been kept intact because it is not of gem quality.

The unnamed fisherman's discovery surfaced only on Monday, when he showed it to Ms Amurao.

For 10 years, unaware of the pearl's value, he had kept it in his home as a good luck charm. But a fire forced him to flee his shack and reveal his secret.

The plan now is to turn the pearl into a centrepiece of an exhibit to attract tourists to Puerto Princesa city, the capital of Palawan.

It will remain as it is, said Ms Amurao. "We don't want to cut it into pieces. That will be such a huge waste." She said it will not be sold.

As for giving it a name, she said she will suggest that it be named the "Pearl of Puerto Princesa".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2016, with the headline 'Fisherman's whopper catch: 34kg pearl'. Print Edition | Subscribe