Since antiquity the natural pearls of the Gulf have been famed as the finest, most lustrous and most plentiful in the world. From the beginnings of trade till the 1930s, they were a major product of the Gulf ’s coastal peoples. From the 17th to the early 20th centuries, rising demand turned pearling into their economic mainstay. By this time pearls were fished in their millions, and the industry dominated the lives, health and expectations of entire shaikhdoms. The influx of people and wealth to the coast permanently transformed the Gulf, providing the manpower and capital to nurture the city-states – Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah – which endure there today.
Despite its formative role, there has until now been no book dealing with the pearl industry’s entire history. This ground-breaking work traces its evolution on the Arabian and Persian sides of the Gulf, and explores the role it played in shaping the political, social and urban configuration of the region today. It shows the extent to which the Gulf economy became dependent on a single commodity, and thus how pearling resembled the oil industry to come.
Lavishly illustrated, it covers in unprecedented detail the history, development, conduct, florescence and catastrophic collapse of the industry in the early 20th century. It will fascinate not only those wishing to understand the growth and conduct of the pearl fishery, but also those interested in the history of the region and the origins of the Gulf states, and in the colourful story of the global taste for one of mankind’s most highly prized precious stones.