Wed, Jul 19, 2017

Luxury Goods, Jewellery & Watches
Giant clam shell to sink into record books

A giant clam shell could soon be making its way into Dubai’s record books, if a business-savvy European environmentalist and philanthropist has his way.

Marine conservationist Volker Bassen, who is based in Africa, has crafted what he claims is “the world’s biggest giant clam shell” into a luxury sink which he hopes to sell to one of the hotels in the city.

He is bringing the 180,000-year-old fossil and its pearl, said to be one of the rarest in the world, to The Hotel Show Dubai 2017 in September, to exhibit alongside the raft of ancient finds he has turned into stunning furnishings.

The shell, which Bassen excavated in a limestone quarry along the Kenya-Tanzania border and weighs a whopping 373 kg, is up for grabs as perhaps the most bespoke sink to have ever been sold in the UAE.

The proceeds of the sale will go to charity, he says.

 “Throughout history clamshells have been found in quarries along the East African coast. When I first saw one of them 20 years ago, I was amazed by the sheer beauty and size. The shells have not seen sunlight for at least 180,000 years, at which time they became extinct. Now we are able to bring out their beauty by using skilled craftsmen to carefully clean, grind and polish them,” he says.

“The largest giant clam shell on record was discovered off the Japanese island of Okinawa in 1956, with a weight recorded at 270 kg. My biggest clamshell weighs about 100kg more. Today’s giant clamshells, Tridacna Gigas, are heavily protected. Since my clamshells are fossils from an extinct species, Tridacna Gigantea, which grew 30 per cent larger, worldwide import and export is permitted.”

Bassen, who describes himself as half German, half Swede, came to Africa in 1990 rescuing ancient sea-life fossils along the East African coast and selling them as bespoke pieces for charity. He works on a number of community outreach projects in Kenya and Tanzania, whilst running the East African Whale Shark Trust which he established in 2005.

This is the first time that Bassen’s collection of giant clam shell fossils will be showcased and sold in the Middle East. One recently sold for $32,000 during the Tucson Gemstone, Mineral & Fossil Showcase 2017 in Arizona.

“Ten years ago I would find around 10-15 giant clam shells per month, nowadays I'm lucky if at 3-5 per month,” Bassen says. “Also, about 95 per cent of clamshells discovered are single clamshells and damaged to some extent. Only by using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) techniques are we able to discover double clamshells which are carefully excavated. Double clamshells are extremely rare, I only have 22 in my collection after collecting them for 20 years.”

A baroque blister pearl found inside the giant clam shell will also be on display at the show but it’s not for sale, although Bassen says that if he got an offer he couldn’t resist “I might consider selling it”.

The Hotel Show Dubai runs from September 18 to 20 at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC). The Dubai Tourism endorsed event, organised by dmg events and the DWTC, is expected to attract more than 50,000 visitors.

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