National Jeweler Network

Market Developments

GIA working with Bahrain on natural pearl research

January 14, 2014

Bahrain--The Gemological Institute of America announced Thursday that it is partnering with the Bahrain Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Bahrain Economic Development Board to develop the country’s Gemstone and Pearl Testing Laboratory (GPTLB) into a leading research center for natural pearls.

The initiative, initially agreed upon in November, aims to protect and expand Bahrain’s pearl industry by increasing capacity, research, expertise and technology at the GPTLB, as well as identifying further opportunities for growth.

The signed Memorandum of Understanding builds on Bahrain’s long history of pearling, an industry that once formed the backbone of its economy but lost ground during the discovery of oil and the rise of cultured pearls. 

Bahrain has been trying to preserve its heritage in the pearl industry over the past few years, including gaining a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Additionally, the trade of cultured pearls is currently banned there.

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with GIA, a leading source of research, standards, and education in gems and jewelry, to ensure the [lab] has the tools required to boost Bahrain’s pearl production capacity,” said H.E. Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, minister of transportation and acting CEO of the Bahrain EDB.

“Historically, pearling was the backbone of our economy, and we want to capitalize on our heritage, combined with world-class techniques and processes, to create a center of excellence for the industry here in Bahrain.”

GIA already has an established presence in the Middle East, conducting educational programs and courses in places such as Bahrain, Dubai, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

GIA has been putting more focus on natural pearls of late. In the fall, two GIA researchers in Thailand conducted an expedition, along with representatives from the Paspaley Pearling Company, to Australia’s wild pearl oyster beds.

The point of the expedition was to find samples to further research in differentiating certain saltwater cultured pearls from natural pearls. It resulted in a number of successful natural pearl finds, including 776 natural pearls extracted from 20,488 large wild oysters.