Natural Pearl Beds
UAE hoping to strengthen natural pearl beds in the Persian Gulf.
Natural pearls now represent about 0.5 per cent of all the pearls in the world and there are not enough to meet the global demand.
Diver in Persian Gulf, United Arab Emirates
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Diamonds often take centre stage in the most expensive jewellery pieces today but a century ago, it was pearls that were the most sought-after gem.
The well-to-do of society would pay top dollar because of their rarity. Natural pearls can only be formed when an irritant, such as a grain of sand, accidentally finds its way into an oyster or clam, which then coats it with a pearly sheen as a defence mechanism.
But since the invention of cultured pearls - created by deliberately inserting a fragment into an oyster - in the 1950s, the real thing has become even rarer.
They now represent about 0.5 per cent of all the pearls in the world, partly due to the mass production of cultured pearls and the pollution of oyster habitats such as the Gulf.
But the Pearl Revival Committee in Abu Dhabi is hoping to turn the tide.
Khaled al Sayegh, the committee chairman, said it was working with scientists to find a way to strengthen the molluscs and protect the environment.
The committee is also encouraging retailers and consumers in the Emirates to have their pearls certified or appraised by experts, to educate people about the differences between them and cultured pearls, Mr al Sayegh said.More about natural pearl beds.