The history of pearling is inextricably linked to the history of Bahrain, the strategically-located Gulf archipelago set amidst one of the richest and most plentiful pearl fisheries in the world.
Sea of Pearls tells the story of pearl fishing in the Gulf, and the role that this timeless industry played in global commerce, fashion, urban development, political struggles and the earliest ever long-distance maritime trade. From the 18th to 20th centuries, the industry boomed, as pearls were fished by ever-increasing numbers of tribesmen and townspeople to feed an expanding international market. Bahrain was at the center of this activity before the industry's collapse in the early 20th century with the introduction of cultured pearls from Japan. The influx of traders, migrants, merchants and political advisors - each seeking to partake in the booming trade - left an indelible mark on the Gulf, germinating new city-states with cosmopolitan communities, which are now the global metropolises that we know today.
Launching with the generous support of the Bahrain Authority of Culture and Antiquities (BACA), Sea of Pearls spotlights Bahrain's UNESCO-listed 'Pearling Path', a 3.5 km pathway taking visitors on a journey from the oyster beds of Muharraq to the historical merchant homes and other structures involved in the pearling economy. Lavishly illustrated, this book covers in unprecedented detail the history, development, impact and florescence of this ancient industry before it died out and was eclipsed in the age of oil. It is essential reading, not only for those wishing to understand the historical growth and geopolitical dynamics of pearl fishing, but also for those interested in the history and origins of the Gulf states. It is the fascinating, seldom-told story behind the world's enduring desire for one of humankind's most prized precious stones.