Our region has valued pearls for centuries. The tradition of pearl-diving in the the Gulf is ancient, and dates back more than 7,000 years. In fact, Ras Al Khaimah was a major trade post thanks to the booming pearl industry. Jewelers from across the globe would make regular trips to Bahrain and Qatar in search of the lustrous gems. Sourced from ponds, lakes, and oceans, pearls are the only gems with watery origins, and natural pearls from the Gulf are considered the most exquisite in the world. Extremely rare, 70 to 80 percent of all natural pearls came from the region until the 1950s.
Before the discovery of oil made Qatar one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the ancestral craft of pearl trading made up 95% of the income of those living along the Gulf. During the summers, men would set off on months-long expeditions to source rare oysters from below the ocean’s azure waters. They’d have a heavy stone weighing down their foot and a net tied around their neck to collect the mollusks. A dangerous and tiresome ordeal, many would not make it back home. Thus today, pearls are highly honored in Qatar as an homage of the sacrifices that those before them made that allowed their nation to prosper.
Now, iconic jeweler Tiffany & Co. has just launched a special high jewelry collection, “Bird on a Pearl,” that pays tribute to the long history and spirit of pearl-diving in the Middle East. The collection is made up of a series of brooches, which are a reinterpretation of Jean Schlumberger’s signature bird from 1965, crafted out of natural saltwater pearls sourced in the Gulf region and acquired from the private collection of Qatari businessman and leading authority in natural pearls Hussein AlFardan, alongside rings, pendants, necklaces, and earrings.
AlFardan, who belongs to one of the oldest and most successful traditional pearl merchants in the Gulf, boasts the largest private collection of natural pearls from the region. His unique collection of natural pearls was highlighted in Rizzoli’s recently-published tome, Natural Pearls, A Timeless Legacy: The AlFardan Collection. Opening his doors to Tiffany & Co. to curate the new capsule, the collector even offered the jeweler some of his favorite pearls, thus the brand’s new collection is unlike anything else among their offerings, bringing to light the jeweler’s unique sourcing process and kinship to the most rare and precious gemstones in the world.
“Many jewelers and high jewelry houses have attempted to acquire Mr. Hussein AlFardan’s exquisite natural pearls, but he has always declined. Yet, [he] opened the doors of his private collection to Tiffany & Co. and allowed us to hand select each pearl for this capsule collection,” said Victoria Reynolds, Tiffany’s Chief Gemologist. “We are forever grateful for his willingness to work with our designers and artisans in bringing this collection to life.”
Natural pearls from the Gulf are unique for their transparent and high-luster nacre, which is derived from the mollusk’s mantel— an organ similar to skin that forms the lining of the mollusk’s shell. Pearl divers and harvesters gently open these mollusks and extract the pearl with tall tweezers. Out of 10,000 wild oysters only one will yield an extraordinary Tiffany-worthy pearl, which is why the 371 carat three-strand necklace made out of natural saltwater light cream pearls in Tiffany & Co.’s new collection— the piece de resistance— is wildly impressive. Creating one strand of natural pearls with matching shape, color, and lusters, is extraordinarily rare— let alone three that perfectly match.
The jeweler will unveil the high jewelry capsule collection during an exclusive event in Doha this month.