Michael Spressler recently stopped by one of his favourite restaurants to enjoy one of his go-to appetisers.

But he walked away with something a lot more valuable – a pearl that could be worth thousands of dollars.

Michael and his wife Maria, from the US state of New Jersey, have been going to The Lobster House Restaurant in Cape May for 34 years.

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Their last visit to their local, in late February, was unlike any other.

After ordering a dozen clams on the half shell, Michael proceeded to chow down.

It wasn’t until he was almost finished eating that he noticed something unusual in one of the clams.

“I was down to the 12th one and when I picked it up on the fork it looked kinda heavy, but I didn’t think [anything] of it,” Michael told CBS affiliate KYW-TV.

You just never know when you’re going to find a pearl in a clam.
You just never know when you’re going to find a pearl in a clam. Credit: The Lobster House Restaurant

“Then when I started to eat it, I noticed something was in my mouth.

“I actually thought one of my tooth broke.”

Maria Spressler described the experience as a “once in a lifetime event” and said the discovery was shocking.

“He’s eaten dozens and dozens of clams and we’ve never found anything like that so it was pretty exciting,” she said.

Rare find

Keith Laudeman, the restaurant owner, said the occurrence was “pretty rare”.

“We’ve seen small ones that aren’t really pearls but nothing like this,” Keith said.

The Lobster House Restaurant has been run by the same family for 100 years and Keith said he’s surprised the story has gone viral so quickly.

“People all over the country are calling me,” he said, adding that it’s certainly good for business.

The precious gem.
The precious gem. Credit: The Lobster House Restaurant

The Spresslers were at the restaurant that day to celebrate 34 years of visiting there.

The restaurant posted about the rare find on its Facebook page and many followers were amazed.

Some skeptics were confused and thought that only oysters created pearls.

“Both produce pearls,” the restaurant wrote.

“Most common in oysters but clams and mussels too. It’s the bivalve’s reaction to debris or grit.”

Seafood souvenir

The Spresslers walked away with a potentially lucrative souvenir – the 8.8mm pearl could sell for thousands.

But they have no plans to sell it.

“I would like to have it set into a nice piece of jewellery, maybe a mermaid or something nautical,” said Maria.

“It’s a beautiful remembrance of that day and what we have is so special.”