Bahrain-Swiss deal to protect pearl industry
Manama, September 6, 2010
A newly-signed Bahrain-Swiss agreement aims to establish mutual co-operation in research, training and testing in the pearl industry, a top official said.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed yesterday (September 5) by the Industry and Commerce Ministry's Precious Metals and Gemstone Testing Directorate with the Swiss Gemmological Institute.
"It will in particular develop criteria for distinguishing natural pearls from cultured pearls," said said Precious Metals and Gemstone Testing director Ali Saffar.
"The ministry is confident that the memorandum will help maintain the integrity of the international natural pearls trade."
Saffar said that the agreement would allow both countries to join forces in research and studies to help detect natural pearls from cultured ones.
It will also help develop ways to identify Keshi cultured pearls as well as the source of the pearl, he added.
"Bahrain pearls are known for their beauty and purity, and that is what makes their prices high," said Saffar. "Their reputation is renowned all over the world and we want to protect that with our research."
The co-operation will also result in organising courses for businessmen and laboratory employees about precious stones such as diamonds and pearls.
The memorandum follows a meeting held in Bahrain in June to spearhead international efforts to find ways to detect a new type of cultured pearls that cannot be distinguished from natural ones.
The country's Pearl and Gem Testing Laboratory was the first to uncover the strong resemblance between real pearls and the Keshi type of cultured pearls.
It raised the issue at the last World Jewellery Confederation meeting, which was held in February in Munich, Germany.
The meeting was held following the approval of the international delegates to develop scientific testing and identification methods.
Countries taking part included the US, Thailand, Switzerland, Italy, the UK and Japan.
Saffar said each participating laboratory decided to visit Keshi cultured pearl farms in Australia or Japan.
The visits will be a means of further understanding the process of making these pearls and possibly identifying a way to distinguish them from natural ones, he added.
"After that we will hold another meeting to discuss each laboratory's result and work from there," said Saffar.
Our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News reported in June that officials were concerned that the Keshi cultured pearls would be a threat to the natural pearl trade in Bahrain and the world.
This is due to its huge similarity and cheap price compared to the natural ones, the officials said.
It created a situation where on many occasions the laboratory has been forced to refuse the issuance of testing certificates for this type of cultured pearl, according to the officials. This is due to the fact that it cannot be made certain if these pearls were natural or not.
Bahrain is working at a local level to revive its ancient industry in co-operation with the Culture Ministry, the Finance Ministry and Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife.
The Pearl and Gem Testing Laboratory annually tests 20 kg of pearls from Bahrain and abroad, according to officials.
Up until 1929, pearls were the driver of Bahrain's economy. The industry, which employed 90 per cent of Bahrainis, largely died out after 1929 when divers took up new jobs following the discovery of oil. – TradeArabia News Service