I have an announcement to make... I am moving to Texas! There are pearls deep in the heart of Texas. Well, maybe not deep in the heart of Texas but certainly deep in the Concho River in West Texas! The Concho River is a tributary of the Colorado River in Texas. Yes, a little trip to the San Angelo area and suddenly you will stumble upon a little known pearl area. Who knew? There is even a jewelry store devoted to this rare river gems!
Concho is Spanish for shell; the river was named Concho due to its abundance of freshwater mussels!
True of so many rivers throughout the U.S., the mussel populations have very diverse species. There are about 52 different varieties of river mussels in Texas, three of these varieties are found in this area. Of these three, only one, the Cyrtoniaias tampicoensis, carries the beautiful Concho pearls! The Cyrtoniaias tampicoensis is also called the Tampico pearly mussel. So fitting!
Supposedly, pearl hunters can make up to $20,000 a year but as we know with Tennessee River pearls, pearl hunting is just not that easy! It is a bit like diving blind. Yes, to find those pearls deep in the heart of Texas, you have to wade through muck and slime. The rivers are very cloudy and dark making visibility nonexistent.
Most people in San Angelo agree that the Spanish explorers were the first ones to discover these pearls almost 500 years ago. It took local explorers until the 1960s to really try to make a living creating jewelry from these unique river pearls. Supposedly San Angelo is full of these gems now and work on the San Angelo streets are they are pretty pricey!
A post in Wednesday's No. 4 St. James reports Concho Pearls are unique in size, shape and color, range from perfectly round to “baroque” (i.e., irregular in form), and from a soft pink hue to dark lavender. They sound lovely.
If you road trip to Texas, don't forget the permit! Texas requires a $35 permit for pearl hunters.