INTERVIEW & WEBINAR Natural pearls vs cultured pearls – INTERVIEW – Bahrain takes steps to protect its natural pearls


INTERVIEW & WEBINAR Natural pearls vs cultured pearls – INTERVIEW – Bahrain takes steps to protect its natural pearlsBader Al Shaybani, a gemmologist with the Bahrain Institute for Pearls and Gemstones (DANAT), gave a Jewellery Outlook webinar starting at 2 pm UK (4 pm Bahrain, 6.30 pm India) on Saturday 18th April, 2020, about “Natural pearls versus cultured pearls.”

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Bahrain has taken stringent steps to protect its marine oyster habitats and safeguard future supplies of natural pearls, DANAT gemmologist Bader Al Shaybani tells Jewellery Outlook Editor David Brough.

What steps is Bahrain taking to ensure a continuing supply of natural pearls?

In efforts to protect the environment and sustain marine life, the Kingdom of Bahrain has obtained approval and authorisation of the World Heritage Committee for inclusion of the ‘Pearl Path’ site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The site is associated with a project that includes marine natural reserve protection of Al-Hairat (“oyster” habitats), one of the largest nature reserves in the Arabian Gulf and the first pearl fishery protection zone.

Also, pearl fishing in the Kingdom of Bahrain is heavily regulated by laws, and controls on pearling activities are implemented to ensure the protection of pearl resources.

Moreover, as part of the Kingdom’s aim at reinforcing the importance of natural pearls, the government established the Bahrain Institute for Pearls and Gemstones (DANAT), with the vision of becoming the world’s preferred centre for natural pearl and gemstones third party verification services and scientific research.

When did Bahraini authorities decide not to permit importation of cultured pearls, and why is this measure still in force?

In 1928 a public notice – nowadays a law – was set in place, prohibiting anyone from selling, offering for sale, or possessing cultured pearls for trading.

The strict measure is still in force to this day to ensure that Bahrain’s natural pearl-related heritage, trade and overall economy are preserved.

What was the impact for the Bahraini economy of the emergence of cultured pearls from Japan in the 1930s?

When cultured pearls from Japan reached the market around the 1930s, it affected the natural pearl market in Bahrain greatly, to the extent of decreasing natural pearl related revenues by more than 70%.

However, natural pearls stayed integral to Bahrain’s economy and culture and that is reflected in today’s status of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the natural pearl industry.

Why have the prices of natural pearl jewels increased?

I am not a jewellery expert, nor am I related to the trade in any way, but from a personal perspective, I think that people’s appreciation of what is “authentic” in nature has increased.

Also, I think that it has to do with the scarcity of natural pearls relative to cultured pearls.