Friday, February 29, 2008

Dubai unveils 'Pearls of Arabia' Project


The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre on Monday unveiled plans for “Pearls of Arabia,” a project that will feature offshore entertainment, retail, and educational components. This project is the first stage of Dubai’s plan of reestablishing the emirate as a center for the global pearl trade.

In association with Paspaley Pearling Co. PTY Ltd, DMCC will establish a 6,000-square-meter "Experience Centre" at The World, a housing and business development of man-made islands in the shape of a world map off the coast of Dubai. The new pearl center will be built in Antarctica.

The project will include a pearl-themed cultural heritage centre, a performing arts theatre, an exhibition gallery, and a themed restaurant alongside boutiques inviting participation from the leading international names in the pearl industry. Visitors will travel to this destination by water ferries—transporting them across the manmade archipelago of 300 islands and into the region’s storied past. The facility is expected to be complete by the end of 2010.

"Less than a century ago, pearling was the very lifeblood of Arabia, accounting for some 80,000 jobs in the UAE alone and representing 95 percent of the country’s total revenues," said Ahmed Bin Sulayem, executive chairman, DMCC. "Pearls of Arabia presents age-old wisdom in a modern and contemporary fashion to revive the region’s historic legacy for the benefit of future generations."

DMCC’s objective is to develop the global and regional pearl market with specific focus on trading, grading, trade events, and auctions alongside trade and consumer education. The Pearls of Arabia project represents a component of Dubai’s strategy. The Dubai Pearl Exchange creates important opportunities for the international pearl trade by providing an exclusive trading platform and a facilitated free-trade environment for regional and international pearl traders.

DMCC also will investigate the introduction of a uniform certification for pearls, based on globally recognized quality parameters. This certification would be developed in conjunction with leading gem certification bodies to generate increased confidence in the pearl trade. Certificates issued from the emirate would have the official imprimatur of the Dubai Government.

Left to right: Nicholas Paspaley, executive chairman, Paspaley Pearling Co. PTY Ltd; Ahmed Bin Sulayem, executive chairman, DMCC; and Gaiti Rabbani, executive director, Coloured Stones and Pearls, DMCC. During the unveiling of Pearls of Arabia at The World.



Dubai’s Pearl Industry to Shine Again Written by Adam Gonn
Published Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nowadays Dubai is known as the miracle economy of the Gulf, managing to turn its oil wealth into a diverse economy.

Less than a century ago, however, the Gulf was home to some of the best pearls in the world, due to the formation of the seabed, the temperature and shallowness of the water.

Some 80,000 men were involved in pearling in the UAE alone and the sale of pearls represented 95 percent of the country's revenues. It is this heritage that Dubai’s Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) plans to present in the new Dubai Pearl Museum, which will house special types of pearls from various regions.

The new museum will be the second one in the Emirate. The current pearl museum is located in the National Bank of Dubai (NBD) headquarters in Deira. The first museum was established when NBD's founder-chairman, Sultan Al Owais, one of Dubai's most important pearl merchants, poets and philanthropists, donated his pearl collection.

The plans for the museum are being presented in conjunction with the establishment of a Dubai Pearl Exchange in mid-April, which aims to re-establish Dubai as a global center for pearl trading.

The two centers will be located on "Antarctica" at The World, a man-made island cluster on the Dubai coastline, as part of the approximately 7000-square meter Pearl of Arabia cultural heritage center, which will also include a performing arts theater, an exhibition gallery and restaurants, alongside boutiques to be run by top pearl fashion houses.



The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) is unveiling “Pearls of Arabia,” a project intended to reestablish the emirate as a center for the global pearl trade. The project, which will feature an offshore entertainment, retail and education center, is expected to be completed in 2010. The DMCC’s objective with the project is to develop the global and regional pearl market with specific focus on trading, grading, trade events and auctions alongside trade and consumer education

In association with Paspaley Pearling Co. PTY Ltd., a south sea pearl company and producer, the DMCC will establish a 6,000-square-meter Experience Centre on Antarctica at The Worlds Islands. As part of the Experience Centre, there will be a pearl-themed cultural heritage center, a performing arts theater, an exhibition gallery and a themed restaurant alongside boutiques inviting participation from the leading international names in the pearl industry. The destination will be accessible to visitors by water ferries.

“Less than a century ago, pearling was the very lifeblood of Arabia, accounting for some 80,000 jobs in the UAE alone and representing 95 percent of the country’s total revenues,” says Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Executive Chairman, DMCC. “‘Pearls of Arabia’ presents an age-old wisdom in a modern and contemporary fashion to revive the region’s historic legacy for the benefit of future generations.”

Nicholas Paspaley, Executive Chairman of Paspaely Pearling Co. PTY Ltd., says, “Historically, Dubai served as the world’s hub in the trade of fine-quality natural pearls. Now, almost 100 years later, we are delighted to collaborate with DMCC to revitalize the region’s traditional association with pearls…. Dubai will present to the world the best selection of pearls and pearl jewellery that the 21st century pearling industry has to offer, and will showcase the beautiful history and story of pearls.”

As part of its Pearl Strategy, the DMCC plans to investigate the introduction of a uniform certification for pearls, in conjunction with leading international gem certification bodies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

First International Pearl Convention


Emmanuel Fritsch of the University of Nantes (France) and Stefanos Karampelas of the University of Thessaloniki (Greece) attended the First International Pearl Convention in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Nov. 19-20, 2007. Following is their report on some of the highlights:

Organized by the Dubai-based Pearl Revival Committee to raise the profile of natural pearls from the Persian Gulf (referred to locally as the "Arabian Gulf") and to discuss related issues, the conference included a seminar dedicated to technical issues and a summit focused on production and marketing.

Technical Seminar

Figure 1. These natural pearls, shown on a shell from the host Pinctada radiata, were recovered from the Persian Gulf. Photo by Nicholas Sturman.

Kenneth Scarratt (GIA Thailand) described the wide variety of mollusks that can produce pearls and argued that the term "pearl" should be applied to both nacreous and non-nacreous materials, such as conch pearls. He also told participants to "keep their minds open" to the theory that pearls may nucleate on a grain of sand, and displayed X-radiographs of pearls with minuscule shells in their centers. Elisabeth Strack (Hamburg, Germany) pointed out that natural freshwater pearls come from numerous locations, including lesser-known ones such as northwest Russia. She also discussed terminology and taxonomy issues (e.g., the vast majority of pearl "oysters" are actually not classified biologically as oysters). Shigeru Akamatsu (Mikimoto & Co., Tokyo) reviewed the history of pearl culturing. Among other issues, he discussed the present status of the Japanese akoya product, which is suffering from "red tides" and over-warm water temperatures. He said there are plans to move to a smaller but higher-quality production, mostly by limiting the number of pearl farms and number of shells under cultivation to reduce stress on the animals.

Nicholas Sturman (Gem & Pearl Testing Laboratory, Bahrain) reviewed pearl testing techniques, saying he prefers X-ray luminescence over measuring manganese content to separate freshwater from saltwater pearls. He also reminded the audience that production of natural pearls in the Persian Gulf (figure 1) is quite small today, with pearl fishing more a hobby than a commercial enterprise. Stephen Kennedy (Gem Testing Laboratory of Great Britain, London) reviewed pearl treatments and their detection, noting that some "chocolate" pearls, for example, are created by the bleaching and subsequent dyeing of gray-to-black pearls.

These contributors pointed out the importance of unsubstituted, short, polyacetylenic molecules ("polyenes") in the coloration of freshwater cultured and many other pearls, rather than carotenoids, which are found only in the pen-shell pearls of the genus Pinna. Sutas Singbamroong (Dubai Gemstone Laboratory, UAE) presented a preliminary study of Persian Gulf natural pearls, which are mainly small, white-to-"cream" colored (with about 2-3 percent yellow), and grow in a variety of shapes.

The technical seminar concluded with a panel discussion on how pearl certification can help the industry. Among other issues, the point was made that nacre quality is as important as nacre thickness. Lower-quality nacre can be recognized by its chalkier appearance, the defects it induces around drill holes and the presence of thicker-than-average conchiolin layers just beneath the surface, as seen in X-radiographs.


Figure 2. These 8+ mm cultured pearls were harvested in 2007 from the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. Photo by Douglas McLaurin.

A number of speakers addressed pearl production. Daniele Naveau (Robert Wan, Tahiti) discussed efforts to reduce the number of Tahitian farms in order to increase quality, in particular to ensure that nacre thickness exceeds 0.8 mm. Enrique Arizmendi (Perlas del Mar de Cortez, Guaymas, Mexico) described the history of natural pearl production in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, which ended in 1914. Current efforts with the Pteria sterna have resulted in annual production of about 3.5 kg of multicolored cultured pearls (figure 2).

Three presenters addressed the incredible boom in Chinese freshwater cultured pearls: Shi Hongyue (Gems and Jewellery Trade Association of China), Dr. Qiu Zhili (SunYat-sen University, Guangzhou), and He Naihua (China's World Pearl Association). Production has risen from the first 0.61 kg of whitish "rice krispies" from Cristaria plicata in 1971 to the current 1,500 tons of larger, often colored cultured pearls from the Hyriopsis genus (an increase of more than a million-fold). Only about 5 percent of the cultured pearls are gem grade, and rounds represent less than 10 percent of the production. During the summit, Chinese delegates displayed several round white-to-purple freshwater cultured pearls of modest luster but very large size, about 17 mm. There is also a small production of saltwater cultured pearls from the Pinctada martensii (but the nacre is thin, 0.2-0.6 mm) and mabé from the Pteria penguin.

Stephen Arrow (Arrow Pearls, Broome, Western Australia) presented the history and current status of large South Sea cultured pearls from Pinctada maxima on the northwestern Australian coast. Good-quality rounds do not exceed 21 mm in diameter and require about six years of cultivation. Sarkis Hajjar (Belpearl, Antwerp, Belgium) discussed the culturing of pink-to-purple freshwater pearls in Lake Kasumiga, Japan, based on the hybrid Hyriopsis cumingii x H. schlegelii. About 10 kg of such pearls are produced annually, with other cultivation sites currently being sought.

Economics and Marketing

Both speakers on economics and marketing lamented the lack of reliable statistics for pearl jewelry and the industry. Tawfique Abdullah (Dubai Gold & Jewellery Group) regretted the poor communication between producers, manufacturers and retailers, and argued for harmonization of standards among the various producing regions. He added that the pearl industry spends less than one percent of the production value on promotion, as compared to the 20-40 percent spent by other luxury goods. Naheed Anees (ARY Academy of Gems & Jewelry, Dubai) pointed out that the Gulf Cooperation Council countries represent 9 percent of the world's jewelry market, and that per capita jewelry consumption in UAE is about 20 times the world's average. She recommended developing programs to educate consumers about pearls, in particular about imitations, which are still common in the Middle Eastern market. She also proposed developing effective marketing techniques to show that pearl jewelry is no longer "old-fashioned," but rather can be innovative as well as inexpensive.