Dentist’s x-ray checks proves pearly whites are freshwater treasure worth a fortune

by Scott Douglas

Saturday, October 19th, 2002

JEWELLER Alistair Tait caused his dentist’s jaw to drop when he asked him to examine his pearly whites.

Instead of complaining of toothache Alistair wanted dentist Keith Jackson to run his expert eye over two monster freshwater pearls.

The antique jeweller thought he had landed two of the largest Scottish pearls ever found. But to ensure the stones were the genuine article he needed Keith to use his hi-tech x-ray equipment to authenticate the find.

Alistair, 47, was able to leave the dental surgery smiling when Keith confirmed the beautiful pearls, which are believed to be more than 100 years old and worth £2500, were the real McCoy.

X-Ray Checks for precious pearls

Alistair, boss of Alistair Wood Tait Antique and Fine Jewellery in Edinburgh suspected he had something special on his hands but wasn’t able to confirm it until he made the trip to the dentists’ surgery.

He said: “The first thing I had to do was to make sure they were completely natural pearls and in order to do this we have to have them x-rayed because obviously we can’t do anything to harm the pearls.

“It can be a difficult thing to get done because you need the right equipment but whenever I have something that I’m not 100 per cent sure of I just take it to my dentist and he will put them through the radiograph for me.

An impressive pair and completely natural

“What this does is it shows me the internal structure of the pearl because the structure of natural pearls are all very different. From this x-ray I was able to tell that they were completely natural.”

Dentist Keith Jackson, 41, said he was happy to confirm the pearls’ quality. He said: “I know Alistair socially as well as from him being my patient so when he came and asked me for a favour I said it wouldn’t be a problem at all.

“I was more than happy to help out and I’m very glad that he got the result he was looking for. All I did was put them under the radiograph and I left the rest to Alistair because looking at pearls is a bit different from teeth so I didn’t know what to look for.

“But he knew what to look for and he was quickly able to determine that they are genuine and actually very rare.”

Further checks by experts at Leicester University confirmed they were freshwater pearls, which added to their value.

Alisitir said: “I needed to know whether they were river pearls or salt water pearls masquerading as river pearls. This was a bit more difficult to find out because we can’t do any destructive or harmful tests to the pearls because they are very sensitive.

A couple of absolute monsters

“These pearls are definitely fresh water and this means they are quite rare and really quite special in their own right. What is exceptional about these Scottish natural river pearls is that they are 10mm in diameter. They are absolute monsters and I have never had a pair of pearls like this before.

“I have seen individual pearls approaching this sort of size but to have a pair that are both this size and reasonably matched is quite exceptional.  
“They not only have a very good pedigree but they have a very good history as well and they come from a woman who lives in the Highlands so they have always been ‘granny’s river pearls’.

The National Museums of Scotland certainly don’t have anything like this and of all the experts I have shown them to nobody has seen a matched pair of Scottish pearls this size which makes them something really quite special.

“Jewellery usually outlasts people but the flip side to that is that fashions change and maybe the family who owned them didn’t feel they were getting the use out of the pearls that they deserved. Now hopefully I can pass them on to someone who will get good use out of them and maybe pass it on to future generations of their family.”

The pearls are a pair of earrings which were bought from a family in the Highlands. Although Scottish freshwater pearls still exist in certain unpolluted waters in Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia, there is now a complete EU ban on fishing for them so they are extremely rare.

 

 

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