British Columbia

'Nearly busted my teeth': Dinner guest bites down on a mouthful of pearls

Eric Bourquin was sitting down to an oyster feast with a group of friends near Victoria, B.C., Saturday when he suddenly bit down on something hard.

Wife thought husband was choking on something, until he started 'spitting these little pearls out'

'One of them looks like a tooth,' said Eric Bourquin. 'And I thought it was one of my teeth.'

Eric Bourquin was sitting down to an oyster feast with his wife and a group of friends near Victoria, B.C., Saturday when he suddenly bit down on something hard.

"That nearly busted my teeth," said Bourquin. "And then all these pearls started coming out."

It wasn't just one or two pearls. One by one he spat them out, and eventually poked and squeezed 48 out of a single oyster —  a string of pearls if you will.

Bourquin's friend harvests oysters during the winter near Courtenay, B.C, on the east coast of Vancouver Island and freezes them. The exact location is top secret.

When Bourquin and his wife Alice Dehen visited for dinner, the friend took the oysters out of the freezer, pan-fried them and served them for dinner.

Alice Dehen and Eric Bourquin in their home near Victoria, B.C. (CHEK TV)

It wasn't long before Dehen noticed something strange was happening. At first she thought her husband was choking on something.

"I'm like, what is he doing?" she said. "He was spitting these little pearls out, and more just kept coming." 

The couple has lived on the West Coast their entire lives and say they've never experienced anything like this.

Bourquin says if the pearls turn out to be valuable, he will split the money with his friend who caught the pearl-filled oyster.

Internet search

Bourquin took to the internet to see if the pearls were of any value but so far hasn't come up with anything conclusive — aside from the fact that finding 48 pearls in one shell is very rare.

"That's way rare," says Gordie McLellan, owner of Mac's Oysters near Buckley Bay, B.C.

The shellfish farming business has been in the family for 40 years — and in that time several pearls have been discovered — but never in multiples like this.

It's estimated the likelihood of finding one pearl in an oyster is 1 in 10,000.

"To find 48, that's pretty awesome," said McLellan.

True friends

Bourquin's oyster-harvesting friend let him keep the pearls — they are sure to be the highlight of dinner party conversations for years to come — unless, he says, someone wants to make him an offer.

"If anything comes of it, we'll split the money." 

With files from Dean Stoltz/CHEK News

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