A legend of the famed Melo pearls

No 3, Vol.5, April - May 2015

Ms Daria Mishukova
Oriental Studies researcher Daria Mishukova discusses the unique value of pearls in Vietnamese culture.
Oriental Studies researcher, Ms Daria Mishukova, has studied Vietnam for more than 15 years. She has published many research papers on linguistics and Vietnamese culture in Vietnamese, Russian and English. Among her writings about Vietnam, the most popular is the book ‘Vietnam - The Land of Dragons and Fairies’.
Her articles about Vietnamese customs and traditions, lifestyle and culinary attract a lot of readers of lifestyle and travel magazines, including in-flight magazines for Russian flights to Vietnam.
Currently, Daria is based in Vietnam as the branding and marketing director of local jewellery company Long Beach Pearl. This new experience helped create her newest new passion: pearls. With her academic background in Vietnamese and Oriental studies, Daria found a lot of interesting information about the role and value of pearls in Vietnamese culture and history:
‘I was surprised to learn that when Vietnamese writers wrote about pearls, they mostly quoted foreign sources like Chinese and Greek legends and rarely mention Vietnamese legends about pearls. Everybody in Vietnam knows the story An Duong Vuong - My Chau – Trong Thuy, but mostly read it in children’s picture books. When reading the story in original version, as related in the ‘Complete Annals of Dai Viet’ (‘Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư’), we find that it is an extremely beautiful legend about pearls.
‘Complete Annals of Dai Viet’ is considered the most important historical book from the very beginning of Vietnamese history to the period of the Le Dynasty. The most popular and well- known version of the book is the edition which was completed in 1697. In the book, when King An Duong Vuong drew his sword out and cut off his daughter My Chau’s head, her blood leaked into the sea, was eaten by an oyster and thus the precious pearl was born.
As an oriental studies expert, I believe that the legend of pearl origination from ‘Complete Annals of Dai Viet’ can be listed in the top ten most interesting pearl stories of the world. Vietnamese people should know it and feel proud. These very simple stories show how much the beauty of pearls was appreciated in Vietnamese culture. Melo pearls were even given sacred meaning by royal dynasties of Vietnam. That is why pearls can be considered as one of very special gemstones for Vietnamese people.’

More about Melo pearls:
Very few Vietnamese know the fact that the last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, was an admirer and collector of Melo pearls. One of his pearls is listed seventh in the record of the most famous single pearls of the world. The pearl was granted its own name, ‘Sunrise Pearl’. It weighs 397.52 carats, has a diameter of 37.97 x 37.58 mm and is considered as the largest and roundest Melo pearl in the world.
Melo pearls have beautiful flame-like structures. They were considered sacred gemstones, symbols of the concentrated energy of the dragon. Consequently, Melo pearls could not be defiled by drilling, and were never worn. Only the Emperor’s family and perhaps a few privileged dignitaries ever caught a glimpse of them. In October 2010, in Dubai, a Melo pearl weighing 224.30 carats was sold to a private collection for $722,500

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