WanderlustEverything you need to know about the pearls of Bahrain

Prior to the discovery of oil, Bahrain was the pearl capital of the world

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Bahrain’s pearl industry was the backbone of the kingdom’s economy until the 1930s, involving most of the population as either divers, ship-builders or merchants. As a result, the island state’s economy, culture and social structure evolved around the pearl. The industry eventually fell victim to cheaper competition (the cultured pearl) but today, thanks to their purity of colour, the natural pearls of Bahrain are still recognised as the world’s finest and most covetable.

So, when you visit, make sure to buy a pearl or five. Better still, go diving, bring up your own, and take something home you can treasure for years to come.


What to look for

When buying natural pearls, there are metrics to consider. First of all, size: larger pearls are rare and more valuable. Symmetry is important, too; perfectly spherical ones are more in demand, but slightly irregular (baroque) ones can be just as beautiful. The most important factor is the lustre and shine. A good-quality natural pearl will be shiny and bright, while a lesser quality pearl will be dull with less brilliance. Check your potential pearls are blemish- and crack-free before buying. 


Where to buy pearls in Bahrain 

For a fabulous range of pearl jewellery under one roof, look to the luxurious MODA Mall. Alongside international jewellery brands such as Cartier, you’ll find fine local jewellers such as Al Mahmood Pearls and Al Majed Jewellery. Here, you can pick up elegant pearl strings, fine gold bracelets and earrings with exquisite pearl adornments. In the heart of Manama you’ll find Gold City, a shopping paradise dedicated entirely to jewellery. Browse its glittering stores including Natural Pearl Palace, which sells decorative pearls in their original oyster shells as well as pretty rings, pendants and bracelets. A word of advice: do ensure that the pearls come with a certificate guaranteeing they are a natural, organic gem.


Where to dive for pearls 

Once you’ve shopped its malls and explored the souks, why not take to the depths of The Gulf and go pearl diving? Being surrounded by turtles, barracudas and coral reefs, is not not only an incredible way to spend the day, but you’ll also get the chance to take home your own pearl. There are a number of licenced diving centres that will take you out to sea (you’ll need to purchase a pearl diving pass before any trip), where you can collect up to 60 oysters that will be opened on your return.