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The Abernathy Pearl

In 1967 a freshwater pearl was found in the River Tay by William Abernathy. You may not ever find a pearl like the Abernethy pearl, but you can find all you need to know about pearls and a bit about William Abernathy below.

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© Bobbie Jean Peachey

Fresh-water mussels are on the brink of extinction because of over fishing. Due to changes in the law in 1998 it is now illegal to kill or disturb them.

Legendary fisherman, Bill Abernethy was of the last generation to legally collect the pearls which form inside fresh-water mussels. This photograph shows him sitting on the river bank (possibly the River Spey near Tulcan). He is holding his tool for loosening the mussels, which live buried in sand at the bottom of fast-flowing rivers. Whilst lying on his stomach in a small boat or walking the river in waders, Abernethy would use the unusual bucket-like object shown here beside his right leg to look for the mussels underwater.

This 44-grain, natural freshwater pearl, is the most perfect pearl ever found in the rivers of Scotland. A 44-grain natural pearl is a rare find, and even rarer still is to find a pearl of such outstanding quality as the Abernathy. This famous specimen is nicknamed "The Little Willie Pearl".

After its discovery the Abernathy pearl sat on display in a small jewellery shop in Cairncross where it became a popular tourist stop and remained for nearly 30 years. The Abernathy pearl was later sold to a private buyer in the 1990?s for an undisclosed amount.

The Abernathy pearl was discovered in the River Tay in 1967. The pearl was found in an odd-shaped mussel, common to the River Tay.

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