Pearl of Allah, Fact; Pearl of Lao Tsu, Fiction

I think you have hit the nail on the head there, Caitlin. The value was stated as $3,500,000 based on his fairy tale account of the legend, nothing else.

What I would like to know is how Steenrod would put his credibility on the line when claiming the carbon dating showed the pearl was from 600BC. Any comment Mr. Steenrod? The latest appraisal, albeit unsigned, is dated January 17th of this year.

This is problem that I have with the appraisal. There is nothing about the appraisal which gives the impression that Mr. Steenrod even saw the pearl. It reads like an advertisement for the pearl without giving any real information. The valuation is completely based on inflation, and no real gem valuation or even identification has been determined. In his defense Steenrod did make mention to the fact that there are no comparables from which to ascertain a value, but how can Steenrod excuse creating an appraisal for a pearl without even listing its origin? If you read the appraisal you notice the glaring absence of the words "Giant Clam" or even Tridacna. How could he leave that off the appraisal?

It is also described as a one-of-a-kind religious artifact, which is apparently lending credence to the amulet nucleus theory. But if that is true then the appraisal is faulty in calling the pearl the largest known natural pearl. If there is an amulet inside (which of course there is not), the pearl would be cultured. It would not be the world's largest natural pearl any longer. It would be the world's largest cultured pearl - you could simply divide that valuation by 10.

It is all just "a pack of lies...."
Steenrod's appraisal was claimed by the pearl for peace foundation in the Wiki article references, but his evaluation of the pearl at 93,000,000 clameroos favors the plaintiffs. Go figure.

Who has the pearl?

Where is it?

Pearl of Peace, pearl for peace, What an ironic name for a pearl steeped in lies and deceit and even murder.
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Even if the legend were true and we both know it is not, how did they explain that the lost pearl was the same as the found pearl?
According to their own deposition- errrr I mean story, Mr Lee never saw it himself and even if he had a rubbing of it, it would have changed a lot with 200 years more accretions.

It isn't just that the premise is untrue- and that does invalidate the entire story- it is that there are so many embellishments which are showing willful deception on the part of Wilburn Cobb who is no longer around to defend himself. Neither the AMNH nor the Mensa articles have any references and they were not fact checked by their respective editors, but swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Jeremy did you read the wiki article? the pearlforpeacefoundation is making changes to it without signing the edits, but the entire fabrication is up there in its full glory and Wilburn Cobb is the main source of the story!

Barbish's foundation by perpetrating it on the wiki site has a huge platform to fool schoolchildren and credulous people!

I think his tales may need to be scrutinized and discredited on almost a line item basis.
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Now hold on here just one second, both of you. I suggest you back off a bit until you have all the facts.

First: Re: Mr. Steenrod: We have an ALLEGED appraisal. That appraisal could have been written by any one for any reason. I was NOT ABLE to AUTHENTICATE IT as he could not grant the interview due to a prior commitment to a major news agency.

He may not know about the appraisal we have. You are making statements regarding him and his integrity without know the facts. I, for one, am not willing to impugn someone’s integrity without having all the facts.

He has promised me an interview should his circumstances change. That’s all we’ve got, nothing more.

Making accusations based on supposition that “he never saw the pearl” or any other claims other than what Mr. Steenrod has PERSONALLY TESTIFIED TO, well, that’s pretty dangerous territory and mighty soft sand to be standing on.

Regarding Mr. Cobb’s articles: You are not calling Mr. Cobb into question, you are calling the American Museum of Natural History into question. Again, that’s not something I am willing to do based on suppositions.

Regarding the Mensa article: They did reference ancient Chinese culturing methods. They reference the Encyclopedia Britannica and a publication from the Natural Museum for Jan. 1940, p.11, neither of which I have had time to research. Again, I am not willing to call them out without knowing for sure who and what I’m calling out.

Jeremy, there are LEGAL methods to discovering what we would all like to know at this point. I have discussed those briefly with Caitlin, and since you and I have never communicated directly on this topic, I assume she has forwarded that information to you.
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It is on Steenrod's letterhead listed with his credentials. It references other appraisals he has made for Barbish several times in the past on the same pearl, and it clearly states "I created this appraisal". He has never denied that he prepared the appraisal. That does not seem to be part of the argument. The appraisal is linked from the Wikipedia article and WAS on the Pearl For Peace Site just a couple of hours ago. As someone who is qualified to appraise pearls, I can say that that appraisal is rubbish - and no professional would accept it as anything but.

Yes, the Mensa article did reference the Chinese culturing technology and cited it as evidence to back the legend. But it missed the part that Lao Tse is BC Chinese history, while Chinese blister pearl technology is more than 1000 years AD. It does not offer evidence to back up the legend, it proves the legend is untrue.

Sure, there are legal ways to dig up the information. But there is nothing illegal about picking apart a fabrication on this forum. So basically, we are digging up this information in a legal way... it is all very easy to find.
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I am certainly not afraid to critique either the AMNH's article nor mensa's. Neither has references, so Cobb is the sole source for all his claims. He is also the source for Barbish's claims.

What we have done is go one level deeper than Barbish. He is apparently not the author of Cobb's fairy tales, so it devolves back onto Cobb and he is testing out as being a highly unreliable source. More to follow on that later. But the bottom line is always going to be that the Lao Tsu legend is sheer fabrication- there is no such thing as a cultured Tridacna pearl.

I am curious about one thing. Does Barbish have the real pearl, still, or one of the numerous copies?

If Steenrod saw the pearl, or a copy, he still could not authenticate it as a tridacna clam pearl- and not a copy. He has no credentials to tell a genuine from a fake.
He did not need to see the pearl to make an estimate based on paperwork
Caitlin's delving into tridacna recently resulted in my following post on her thread "eBay find of the day: tridacna pearls":

"My wife and I snorkled around a giant clam in Aitutaki lagoon last September, on our way to falling in love with poe pipi.

"These calcareous lumps (due respect to Allah) make the Nagasari Tree pearl from Indonesia look like one of history's greatest treasures.

"And every bit as much a pearl!"

That said (again), I admire the intensive archival research underway on this thread and am heartily enjoying its fruits.

We all agree the appraisal is suspect. It was NOT on his letterhead, at least the one that I saw. It was NOT on his company's letterhead, at least the one that I saw. It was not signed by him or anyone for that matter. What happened? Couldn't they find a pen that day?

The fact is, none of the comments attributed to that appraisal can be attributed to Mr. Steenrod, save one that I know of for sure.

As far as his credentials are concerned, that's a matter for the court to determine. I'm sure he provided them to the court. I haven't seen them; haven't discussed them with him; (would love to know them), but truth be told, he doesn't have to tell me anything truthful or not. He's under no obligation to do so to you or me or anyone else.

As far as calling out the AMNH and Mensa is concerned, if you feel you have enough documentation to support your claims, you go girl! I'll reserve my opinion until I have more data. It's quite possible that these documents could be considered evidentiary.
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Mr. Smeltzer: Thank you so much for your kind comments. As I said a post or two back, it has become compelling for me. And, I have felt guilty that I have somewhat neglected your beautiful necklace posts. I am still anxiously awaiting the debut photos. Please tell me I didn't miss them!
these documents could be considered evidentiary
what documents? Are you referring to this thread? If so it has already been edited and compromised and will continue to be. It is a conversation and things are changing and updated all the time.

It doesn't matter what Steenrod appraised the pearl for- it is not a cultured tridacna clam pearl. In fact, he makes no such claim. He calls it natural, though he claims it is a religious artifact. If he did not write this appraisal, then he should know it is being attributed to him. I would accept it if this appraisal is not one he authored, but it was not me that put it up. I read it in good faith that it is what it says it is. And if Jeremy says it was up on Barbish's website, then it sounds authentic enough for me.
There is no such thing as the pearl of Lao Tsu referenced anywhere, that I can find, except flowing out of Cobb's tall tales.

It is probably from the Philippines and may have been found at any time, since the "youth drowns in wild clam" story is bunk.

What we really KNOW is that it appeared in 1934 and was authenicated as a giant tridacna clam pearl by Dr Waldo Miner at the AMNH and that it is, so far, the largest pearl in the world. That it spent about a year at Ripley's museum in NYC during 1939. That it was sold to Hoffman/Barbish for $200,000 clams and has had a checkered past since with at least 2 court judgments. We know that one part- owner also had his wife killed by a hitman and was involved in another murder by the same hitman..... and because of that, it has the largest wrongful death judgment in Colorado history associated with it. That there are at least two foundations with similar names and claims about the pearl.
That Cobb's claims about the Pearl of Laotsu are pure rubbish. what else do we need to know? That it hasn't been xrayed? That the carbon dating claims must be false because there is no such thing as culturing a tridacna or transferring a previously cultured pearl into one?

Anyone with any credible proof of any other version of this story, is welcome to correct me. I am good at eating crow...
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knotty panda said:
?still anxiously awaiting the debut photos.
(P. Maculata thread)

Did post a couple I was able to salvage from an incorrect camera light setting and now await photo shoot at Pearl Paradise end of this month to capture the poe pipi pieces properly?will post!

The appraisal still IS on the Website, but the link disappeared shortly after I posted to this thread. You can still see it here, however:
Who knows, that may disappear within the hour as well.

In this appraisal Steenrod clearly states he was also the author of the '92 appraisal. The appraisal has Steenrod's home address, telephone number, and full name on it, followed by "gemologist", the apparent credential.

But guess what, I am not the first to question his credentials or appraisal. You can find this article with an easy google search. Apparently Steenrod himself admitted to the appraisal in court, yet also admitted he was not qualified to prepare the appraisal. I do not think anyone here would disagree with that assertion.


Gemologist has no standing to evaluate stone's value

The largest pearl in the world is not a rock. It isn't even a gem. Michael Steenrod was hired by the plaintiffs in a civil action to prepare an appraisal ("Widefield gemologist reflects on life on the rocks," Metro, Aug. 3). He was also a witness for the plaintiffs in conjunction with that civil action. By Steenrod's own testimony, "'The Pearl' is a religious artifact." Steenrod has no credentials with respect to appraising an artifact of any kind. He is certified to appraise gemstones (jewelry).

During the trial, Steenrod viewed documentation that the last sale price of "The Pearl" was $200,000, purchased in 1981 in California from the William Cobb estate. He then stated he had never been provided with this information prior to his appraisal and he could not justify the 300,000 percent increase in its value. Steenrod went on to state and agree he was not qualified to do valuations regarding artifacts.
Tina Hays

Steenrod was gemologist for the plaintiff and had absolutely no basis from which to valuate the pearl. He claims carbon dating that cannot exist as fact, which bolsters the credibility of a fabricated legend. He was a paid witness. He had no qualifications to appraise the pearl. In fact, there are only a couple people in the world who would have the qualifications.

How about this article where Steenrod testifies (probably even with a straight face) that the pearl really did come from Lao Tzu.

Fourteen-pound pearl at center of wrongful death lawsuit in contract killing

January 7, 2005


Colorado gemologist Michael Steenrod testified at a hearing Thursday that the pearl was created by Tao philosopher Lao Tzu more than 2,500 years ago. Tzu is said to have created the pearl by carving a small amulet with representations of the “Three Friends” — Confucius, Buddha, and himself.

“His thought was that it would symbolize peace and unity of all mankind,” he said.

The pearl was inserted into a clam and transplanted into bigger and bigger clams through generations, Steenrod said. It’s said to have been lost at sea during a shipwreck and rediscovered by a Muslim diver in 1934 off the Philippines. The diver named it the Pearl of Allah, he said, and it now sits in a Denver bank vault.

But some know it as the Pearl of Lao-tze, which is believed to have come from a giant clam species known as the Tridacna gigas found in the South Pacific Ocean.

In 1996, Steenrod appraised the pearl at $59.75 million based on its size and history. A lawyer representing Bonicelli’s estate produced records showing that the pearl sold for $200,000 in 1980.

“This is not a conventional pearl,” Steenrod said. “It’s gigantic compared to any other pearl in the world. And it’s one of a kind.”

There is no way a gemologist that has any understanding of perliculture could believe what Steenrod claimed as fact. As I said before, it is utter nonsense. The legend has no basis in fact. The appraisal is rubbish and completely contradictory to Steenrod's own testimony. As Steenrod puts it, the pearl is the world's largest natural, cultured, mabe, whole pearl.
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No, I didn't mean the thread could be evidentiary, (at least I sincerely hope not!) I meant the AMNH and Mensa articles could be considered evidentiary. Now, please to excuse, I have something to look up :)
I think it is also very important to note that the appraisal I just linked in my last post was prepared this year! And prepared once again for Victor Barbish.
Why is this important? Steenrod's admission that he was not qualified to make the original appraisal, and his assertion that the original sales price was not made available to him which would have had a substantial bearing on the valuation, were both prior to Steenrod's latest, updated appraisal.

Also, if Barbish does not want to sell and owns 100% of the pearl which is in Colorado, than what does Hoffman have for sale in Beverly Hills?

Hi Jeremy
That is the same photograph (of the appraisal) that is on the Wikipedia site. The one on the wiki site is also credited to the pearlforpeace foundation.


Who has the pearl? Who has copies?

I certainly do think the articles are evidence. They are evidence that Wilburn D Cobb is a pretentious braggart and many of his statements can not be substantiated and some are easily proven to be false. So how reliable a witness is he? I think he can be impeached by any logical approach.

Back then, it was an easy sell to the Natural History staff that "Mohammedans" bowed down to an image of Mohammed. Today, Cobb would be crucified for saying that.

Also the pearlforpeace folks say W D Cobb was the son of an American civil engineer. That directly contradicts another statement Cobb made to the editors of Natural History that he was Malay and the only European in his lineage was 6 generations back, but that he is the namesake. Natural History may 1940 letter to the Editor.

Cobb was either the author of both statements or someone else made one or both of them up.
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The Mensa bulletin article, written in Feb 1967. Definately makes Cobb the source of the Laotse legend part of the pearl's history.

It could be said that the buyers after Cobb's death, thought the provenance for the Pearl of Allah was good enough; that Cobb was a reliable source.

It could be said that no one realized a tridacna clam could not grow cultured pearls in the time between 1934,when it was supposedly found and 1939 when it came to New York and the first member of the Lee family appeared to Cobb.

Culturing loose pearls was itself a brand new art/science and all the possibilities were not yet explored.

It could be said that Cobb used his story of the appearance of the first Mr Lee to jack up the price of the pearl to $3,500,000.

I think a case could be made that Cobb thought he could benefit financially by claiming the pearl as not only the biggest in known history, but the oldest- and the most valuable.

However, it didn't work out completely, because it sold for $200,000. Actually $200,000 is a tremendous price for an ugly convoluted lump of calcium carbonate that is probably no older than the clam it grew in.

By continuing to plead an unproven claim that the pearl is from 600 BC, ALL the owners risk being exposed as falling for a largely made up con.

When people fact check the stories up on Barbish's website, I think they will find that Cobb tells a good fish story. In fact, I have written a paper that outlines many more absurdities in the Laotse part of the story, even though, as Jeremy aptly pointly out- the legend can't be correct because there is no such thing as a cultured tridacna pearl.
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Man! Congratulations for the patience to read through all that circular reference stuff!

Do you think posters of that thing might sell too??.... ;) That pearl looks like death (by drowning), so it sort of fits the theme :eek: .

PS. Does anyone happen to know what's the rate of 'nacre' deposition for Tridacna species? The size of that thing seems quite a puzzle in itself :rolleyes:
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I don't think much is known about that. I imagine, since it is warmer waters around the Philippines, non-nacreous substances grow fast, especially in a huge shell.

I guess it got that lumpy look because giant clams are sessile (attached permanantly) and probably only rock in place a little so the pearl doesn't get much chance to move around.
The appraisal still IS on the Website, but the link disappeared shortly after I posted to this thread. You can still see it here, however:
Who knows, that may disappear within the hour as well.
The appraisal is still up at the wikipedia site.

If it is removed from there, the claims on the carbon dating would have to be taken down. Even so, it is still the extremely flawed appraisal that bears Sttenrod's name, if not his signature.

If I were Mr Steenrod, I'd be cleaning up these loose ends toavoid looking any more foolish than he does.

BTW the GIA has a fantastic xray system for pearls.

If this pearl wants to gain world class acceptance, it needs to be authenticated by a marine biolgist expert on Tridacnas. In fact, it needs to be reauthenticated by an authority such as RW Miner at the AMNH did in 1939, everytime the chain of evidence is broken.

If any potential buyer looks the pearl up on the web, this thread will come up very high in the rankings, so I hope any such buyer will pay attention and ask the same questions as we have and also insist on a reauthentication and another carbon dating.
I think an update is in order here.

The unsigned appraisal has been removed from the pearlforpeace Site and replaced with two separate appraisals, one from 1982, and the other from 2007.

Now this should be a clincher on the legend. It has always seemed obvious that the entire "carbon dating" fabrication was a hoax. They somehow "carbon dated" the pearl to 600 BC, when Lao Tzu was believed to be alive. If it were indeed carbon dated to this time, it would prove the entire legend is false. The legend states that the pearl was successively reinserted into clams and then was lost in one. If found in 1934, this is when it stopped growing, not 2600 years ago.

That point aside, I would like to point out a contradiction on the two appraisals. Both appraisals make the claim that the pearl has been carbon dated. But the original appraisal, prepared by a gem lab in San Francisco, states that the pearl was carbon dated to be 600 years old - not from 600 BC. That is a big difference. The only claim found anywhere that the pearl was carbon dated to 600 BC is from Steenrod's new appraisal, and this one is signed.

So, yes, Steenrod's credibility is shot with me. In my opinion he clearly fabricated the information on that appraisal, certainly at the behest of the owner. The earlier article showed he testified in court that the pearl was successively reinserted into larger clams - it sounds like her perjured himself to me.

The original 1982 appraisal, the famous one that valued the pearl at $40,000,000, states at the end of the appraisal the following.

Based on the age and the historical significance of the PEARL OF ALLAH, estimated replacement value, in our opinion, plus any applicable taxes...

Now this is where it gets good! Clearly there is a contradiction in the carbon dating story. It does not and cannot make sense anyway. The whole carbon dating story is a hoax. But so much of the value placed on the pearl relates back to its historical and religious significance. It is being valued as an artifact, not a pearl! But it can hardly be considered a religious artifact based on its name.

What this means is that the pearl is not anywhere near as valuable as the owner is claiming. It has never been valued as a pearl. It is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. The last buyer was only willing to pay $200,000...

Since the carbon dating is a hoax, and both the appraisals are wrong, I wonder how much else is a hoax. I would almost be willing to bet that the story of Bin Laden and the $12 million dollar drug dealer is a complete hoax as well.