Pearls – sought after for their intrinsic beauty for thousands of years. They used to be the pinnacle of jewelry, more expensive than gold and silver combined and its’ only within the recent 100 years that modern technology has changed this fact. Today, most pearls are cultivated and grown in huge farms, making them available to the mass consumer market. Pearl necklaces are particularly popular.
That’s a far cry from the dangerous extraction and collection methods used before the invention of modern technology. In the past, not more than 100 years ago, the only way to retrieve pearls was by diving in lakes, floods and the ocean to pick them up, one at the time. The unfortunate divers who’se job it was to do this, were often poor and lured by the relative large sums they could get. The diver would sometimes have to dive as deep as 100 feet on one single breath of air. In order to preserve air and to stay submerged the longest, the divers would hold on to heavy stones on the way down.
Today, this method of pearl hunting is almost gone. The use of slaves has fortunately been abandoned and there are better ways to make a living for most people, even the poor. Cultured pearls have become the norm and there is no risk in producing and selling them. They have an almost equal quality, although the natural variant is still said to be more excuisite and beautiful.
However, there is still a few places in the world that practise genuine pearl hunting. Bahrain – the small gulf state – is one of them. Unlike so many other places in the world, Bahrain has made an conscious effort to preserve the habitat, so that pearl diving can still take place. That’s why some of the world’s most beautiful natural pearls now come from Bahrain, where trade with cultured speciments has been banned.