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13 – 17 November 2024

Held under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence of the United Arabic Emirates.

The Journey of Pearls – from the Sea to Becoming  Timeless Jewellery

Pearls offer a spectacularly feminine and sophisticated feel. What makes pearls special is that they go beyond any faceted gemstones that are mined from the earth. This type of gemstone arises from the depths of the sea and requires no special cutting or polishing to showcase its lustrous beauty. 

Pearls have always been used in jewellery and have been treasured since ancient times. They have high intrinsic value, just like gold, silver, rubies, and diamonds. Plus, they never go out of style. 

In this article, we will unravel bits and pieces of the UAE’s pearl diving industry and how pearls have become one of the most sought-after jewellery pieces in the region.

The History of Pearl Diving in the UAE

Pearl diving was once a lucrative industry that the Emiratis are proud of. In the UAE, archaeologists have found evidence of this tradition dating back over 7,000 years ago. 

Wealthy families in the region are known to give an advance loan to nukhadas, or captains, so they can maintain their boats and buy their needed supplies. The nukhadas, or captains, would then offer the pearls they collected in exchange for the favour. 

Captains who did not have any financiers would sell the pearls they collected to a professional pearl merchant. Eventually, they would also trade the pearls for spices, rice, and textiles from other countries like India and Iran. 

The pearling industry created a period of wealth in the UAE from the late 19th century through the second decade of the 20th century. Divers particularly worked in the shallow Arabian Gulf waters to collect oysters from the ocean floor without modern scuba equipment. The finest pearls in the world were found in the waters of the Arabian Gulf, and this provided real income for the people of the UAE. Top-end designers, such as Cartier, used pearls harvested from the UAE due to their prestige and quality. 

Unfortunately, the Gulf pearl industry began plummeting in the 1920s and further declined in the early 1930s, when the Japanese found a way to make flawless artificial pearls.   

To witness and explore an array of splendid jewellery items and exceptional timepieces,
head over to the Jewellery & Watch Show Abu Dhabi!

November 1-5, 2023 | ADNEC, Abu Dhabi

Fast Forward to Today

Natural pearls are now less sought after in the global market because of the availability of cultured pearls. While the UAE’s pearl trade took a back seat, it still carries cultural significance to this day. There are even plans to revive the heritage and traditions of the emirate’s pearl industry, according to the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. 

Some resorts and tour operators in the UAE offer pearl diving experiences for tourists, allowing them to learn about the traditional methods of pearl diving and even participate in the process. People still do pearl diving, not just for the tourism industry but also as a form of hobby. 

The only commercial pearl farm in the United Arab Emirates that exists today is Suwaidi Pearls. They sell pearls to local and international designers, ranging between 200 AED ($74) and 50,000 AED ($18,627).

The Sparkling Future of the Pearl Jewellery Market

The demand for global pearl jewellery market size and share was valued at approximately USD 8.50 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach USD 10.49 billion in 2023. It is believed that the Asia-Pacific region will dominate the global pearl jewellery market up to 2030. 

Pearl jewellery remains elegant and gives off a timeless appeal, which are key factors driving the market. Pearls have also become the jewellery of choice for more women because many prefer to wear something lightweight. Furthermore, the market is thriving due to the development of advanced cultivation techniques, which make it easier to produce pearls. 

In the UAE, there is a decline in gold purchases, but the overall jewellery market is still projected to grow by 7%. There has been a dynamic shift in the jewellery market where consumers prefer to buy pieces that are accessible and usable daily, which is where pearls come in handy. 

According to the Al Fardans, “pearls continue to captivate the Emirati because they are embedded in the culture of the whole region”. Other countries may be the biggest importers of pearls, but the Al Fardans are regularly consulted by brands and museums for advice and invited to events related to the pearl industry, which together represent the UAE’s heritage.

Source the finest pearls from the Jewellery & Watch Show
Abu Dhabi to add to your collection

The Jewellery & Watch Show Abu Dhabi has been showcasing the elegance of the jewellery industry for three decades. Engage with leading and upcoming jewellery designers and local Emirati talent as you carefully probe every handcrafted piece on display. Take home that piece of pearl jewellery and other creations that you won’t see elsewhere!

November 1-5, 2023 | ADNEC, Abu Dhabi

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