Nice Article on Bahrain Natural Pearls

Pinctada radiata pearls like those found in the Persian/Arabian Gulf

Pinctada radiata pearls like those found in the Persian/Arabian Gulf

Cultured pearls represent 99% of all pearls sold in the US, according to the Cultured Pearl Association of America, though the country’s wealthy elite also understand non-nacreous natural varieties like the conches and melos available at the most upscale stores. (These have a different structure than nacreous pearls, resulting in a porcelaneous surface rather than the sheen of nacre.)

(Whoever wrote this article has overlook me! Basra Pearls)

What makes Bahraini pearl oysters grow so abundantly? Abbas’s research points to shallow waters that ensure ample light on the beds, as well as good salinity and a high number of parasites oysters can ingest during the filtering process. “Warm-water parasites are good for producing little pearls,” he explained at the symposium. In addition, the warmth of the water encourages oysters to reproduce, there are no typhoons or rough oceans to disturb the beds, and there are few oyster predators (such as octopuses) in the Gulf. “The only real threat is the diver,” Abbas noted.

That said, there are beds that remain largely untouched since the 1950s, according to Carter — though Bin Daina’s conversations with Bahraini microbiologists confirm that
harvesting actually helps keep the beds at a healthy rate of population growth.
“The pearl oysters grow above each other, and they kill the next one down” if it’s not harvested, he said during the symposium. “The more you collect, you will regenerate more oysters, so it is a sustainable source of jewelry. We are protecting the environment.”

A total of seven different oyster species exist in Bahrain, according to Dr. Hashim Al Sayed, associate professor of biological oceanography at the University of Bahrain. “The Pinctada radiata is the most common,” he told the symposium attendees. This species has largely white mother-of-pearl lips that determine pearl color, though it does yield the occasional gray, black, pink or silver pearl.

The differences are vast between the natural nacreous pearl industry in Bahrain and the farms that exist worldwide for cultured pearls. Natural pearls, by definition, are created without human intervention. They form when naturally shedding epithelial cells land in an oyster’s soft tissue — often alongside other micro-irritants — and the oyster creates a protective sac that secretes nacre to soothe the intrusions, according to Shigeru Akamatsu’s Pearl Book.

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