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Marco Polo's gift : The Arco-Valley Natural Pearl

The Arco-Valley pearl is very roughly heart-shaped, about the size of a hen's egg that takes its name from the Austrian family dynasty who once owned it. This unusual natural baroque or irregular shaped 575 carat pearl weighs 115 grams and displays blue-pink tones. It was almost up for auction recently to raise money for charity and to draw attention to the moribund natural pearl industry in the Persian Gulf area. The sale that could possibly raise $8 million was postponed.

Photo : Lifestyle Auctions via

From The Travels of Marco Polo
What makes this pearl so special is its age (~800 years) and provenance. It once belonged to the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, who ruled over much of China in the 13th century.

He gave it to Marco Polo as a parting gift. The Venetian trader and traveler extraordinaire, Marco Polo traveled to China with his father and uncle. He was so well received by Kublai Khan that he was made governor of the city of Hangzhou and served faithfully as a trusted emissary. Too faithfully as it turned out as Kublai Khan did not allow Marco Polo and his family to go home for almost three decades.

The Polos traveled with the gemstones hidden in their clothes. No one believed they were the long-lost Polos until they showed the treasures they brought back! And naturally, how rich they now were!

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