Gulf Pearls Take Center Stage

Natural Gulf Pearl Collection

Natural Gulf Pearl Collection

At Alfardan Jewellery, Mr Hussein Alfardan remains a pre-eminent world authority on Gulf pearls and a renowned collector respected for his expertise. At the centre of Alfardan’s pearl chamber at DJWE, a vast casket glimmers with the thousands of specimens Mr Alfardan has gathered, sorted and evaluated. It now constitutes the largest collection of loose Gulf natural pearls in the world and is almost beyond value, though it might be estimated at between one and two billion QAR.

“Qatar is, as always, one of the best and most celebrated in pearling,” said Mr Alfardan, with reference to DJWE 2016’s strong showing in pearls. “People have come a long way to see this. The long history in the region continues to be encouraged by the energy of collectors and of eminent cultural figures here who are interested in and enthusiastic about pearls. We are gathered at the right time, in the right place, with the right people.”

Collectors of pearls also provide the impetus for recording and categorisation of the specialised vocabulary that has described equipment, tools and the pearls themselves over the years. While most Arabic speakers might refer to a local pearl as lulu khaleeji, there is a whole language of particular characteristics documented. A round, clear, lustrous pearl of good quality is yakka. The lowest quality, by contrast, is khashra. Occasionally, divers find light-freckled pearls which emerge from the oyster naturally marked as though
engraved, and which can be called munammash; and then there are also thahabi, golden pearls, and safri, golden-grey pearls which shine like metal.

Al Majed, in business in Doha since 1945, emphasises this heritage aspect of pearls. Al Majed focuses strongly on displaying antique and museum-grade pieces as examples of Qatari heritage and national treasures. A number of creations in pearls from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are on display, among antique engraved arms and finely crafted, wooden jewellery boxes from India. One of the most remarkable displays is a pair of earrings which features two near-identical, very large teardrop-shaped pearls. Each is an extraordinary gem in its own right, but for two such close siblings to be found is extremely rare, especially among natural Gulf pearls. The large diamonds in the same earrings, though highly costly, are really only there as decoration for these rare pearls.

“As the fourth generation of the family in this business, we position our pearls and heritage pieces in the centre of our display area at DJWE,” Mr Safari said. “This supports our interest in informing and educating members of the community about the history and traditions of pearls, locally and regionally. With our traditional pearl workers here, who demonstrate every day the ancient historical techniques of cleaning, drilling and stringing pearls, we show the work that our grandfathers used to do before the petrochemical industry arrived.”

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