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Friday, May 11, 2007

Pearl Of Allah : $60 Million World's Largest Pearl To Be Sold

Pearl of Allah
Victor Barbish, Founder, CEO and Chairman of The Pearl For Peace Foundation, holds a replica of The Pearl of Lao-Tse, aka The Pearl of Allah at his home in Colorado Springs in January 2005.

Shrouded in legend and entangled in a lawsuit, the 14-pound gem known as the Pearl of Allah moved a step closer to an eventual sale this week after a key court ruling.

The Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a $32.4 million wrongful death judgment against the estate of Colorado Springs bar owner Joe Bonicelli, who had bought a share of the pearl.

The ruling clears the way for a probate court to settle Bonicelli's affairs. Three adult children of Bonicelli's first marriage, who filed the lawsuit, have said they want the pearl sold to pay the judgment.

Appraisers have valued the pearl at up to $60 million, said Richard Tegtmeier, a lawyer representing the three. It is believed to be the largest pearl in the world.

The Pearl of Allah, is the largest known pearl in the world, measuring 9.45 inches in diameter and weighing 6.4 kilograms (14.1 lb) or 128,000 pearl grains. The 2006 appraised value is $61,850,000.

The pearl was extracted from a giant clam off the coast of Palawan, on 7 May 1934 by a Muslim Filipino diver. Wilburn Cobb, the son of an American mining engineer, spent his boyhood in the Philippines. In 1934 while he was hunting in the Philippines near a fishing village, he was a witness to a native diver who had been seized by the jaws of a giant clam, which in turn contained an enormous pearl with the image of a turbaned face thought to resemble Mohammad. The Muslim tribal chief labeled the treasure "The Pearl of Allah". At the time of discovery of the pearl, Cobb offered to buy the pearl from the tribal chief. The tribal chief rejected the offer saying that nothing paid for by the sacrifice of a human life could be bought with money. Cobb returned to the village two years later to find the chief's son dying of malaria. Cobb saved his life and as a token of gratitude the chief gave the pearl to Mr. Cobb.

In 1939, Cobb returned to America with the largest pearl in the world. In New York City the pearl was authenticated by Dr. Roy Waldo Miner of the American Museum of Natural History. Victor Barbish learned of The Pearl in the 1970's and had offered to purchase The Pearl from Mr. Cobb for $5 million dollars and was refused. A year later Mr. Barbish and his partners Henry Kyle, Robert Pease, Johnny Weissmuller, and Rudy Vallee, offered Mr. Cobb $10 million dollars and again he rejected the offer. Mr. Cobb told Mr. Barbish that no amount of money could buy something whose value is priceless.

After Cobb's death in 1980, his family sold the pearl to Peter Hoffman, a jeweler in Beverly Hills, for US $200,000 through probate court. Headlines across the world's newspaper hailed it as a bargain considering its fame and appraisal by famed pearl dealer Lee Sparrow and his San Francisco Gem Laboratory for $4,200,000 at the time of the sale. Appraisals since have valued the pearl from $42,000,000 to $59,000,000 based on it being a unique world treasure. Victor Barbish acquired half ownership from Hoffman at the time of the sale in 1980. He purchased the pearl for his daughter, Gina Diane Barbish.

Pearl of Allah

Over the years Mr. Barbish received various offers to purchase the pearl. One of the initial offers was presented by Mohammad Ben, a Lybian businessman, on behalf of three Mid-East investors. Mr. Barbish was led to believe these were legitimate business men who were willing to purchase the pearl for $40 million. Mr. Barbish received a deposit of $12 million but subsequently found out the buyers included a drug dealer and an illegitimate arms dealer. Mr. Barbish rejected the sale and returned the deposit.

Subsequent offers to purchase the pearl were made by an intermediary of Ferdinand Marcos, then president of the Philippines. The president's fall from power made the sale impossible. Mr. Barbish was also approached by Mohammand Faed, who was reportedly a representative of Saddam Hussein. Latif Faed, who was believed to represent Bin Laden, also approached Mr. Barbish to purchase the pearl.

Read Also:
Pearl of Allah (Wikipedia)
$60M Pearl of Allah to be sold (Denver Post)
14-pound Pearl of Allah moves a step closer to eventual sale after court ruling (Pravda)
Bin Laden bedazzled Saddam with jewel (WorldNetDaily)

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