The Pearl Industry In The Middle East

The Pearl Industry In The Middle East

When you think about the pearl industry and where these gemstones are cultured, what is the first place that springs to mind? Perhaps you think of the world-famous pearl industries of Tahiti or the South Sea? Maybe even the lesser-known producers in Australia or the Philippines? But what of the once-famous Middle Eastern pearls?

The Arabian Peninsula has a rich history surrounding pearl diving and cultivation. In the past, their lustrous, iridescent gems would be exported worldwide. With a recent resurgence in the popularity of natural, uncultured pearls, the Middle Eastern pearl industry is once again flourishing. Jewellery brands are increasingly using these polished, radiant gems to adorn their pieces.

The Humble Origins Of A Priceless Gem

The pearl industry in the Middle East is perhaps the oldest and most well-established in the world. Archaeologists suggest that its rich history stretches back more than 7,000 years. The first pearls were found by divers in the Persian Gulf and were subsequently exported worldwide and used in luxury jewellery manufacture across the globe.

Many local families and pearl divers tried to take advantage of the booming pearl industry by moving closer to the coast to be within reach of work. It is estimated that prior to the 1950s, more than 70% of all the natural pearls in the world were supplied by the region, and the pearl trade made up nearly 75% of the Gulf’s total exports. Throughout the majority of human history, these priceless gems were traded all along ancient trade routes such as the Silk Road. They even made their way to the pinnacles of Western society, featuring in the crowns and gowns of European royalty.

However, in the 1970s, this all changed. With the development and establishment of pearl farms, it became easier and cheaper to manufacture artificial pearls. This meant the popularity of the natural pearls found in the Middle East declined rapidly. In addition to this, the discovery of oil in the Arabian Peninsula led many pearl divers to switch professions and invest in the other natural resources the region had to offer. The industry quickly shut down, until only a small number of traditional Middle Eastern pearl cultivators remained.

Middle Eastern Pearls Of The Future

Fast-forward to today, and there’s a growing demand for authentic, naturally formed pearls. As a result, jewellery brands are working hard to keep up with this continually rising trend. In recent times, it’s becoming increasingly common to see Middle Eastern pearls used as the centrepieces of opulent, elegant jewellery pieces, with a wide range of colours, shapes, and shades available.

Meanwhile, pearl divers in the Middle East have developed new, modernised methods to collect the precious gems from the oysters in which they grow. That being said, they still maintain the ancient, time-honoured core techniques passed down through the generations. This helps preserve the sustainability of the industry to ensure its long-term survival.

Middle Eastern pearls have come full circle and look set to stay. Their popularity is on the rise again, and the gemstone’s natural beauty will shine in jewellery worldwide once more.

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