Outlook bright for Gulf pearls, says jeweller
Manama, October 31, 2010
Interest in Gulf pearls is growing across the world because of their unique shine and colour, said a leading Bahraini jeweller.
Those carrying the Bahrain certificate of authenticity are especially popular because of the country's world recognised high laboratory testing standards, said Mattar Jewellers owner Ebrahim Khalifa Mattar.
'The Gulf pearl is unique and is popular for its high lustre because the Arabian Gulf is very salty,' he told our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News (GDN) as a participant at the Jewellery Arabia exhibition, which ended yesterday.
'The Gulf pearl price is becoming very high and this is very positive for our business. I think we have the best laboratory in the world and any piece that has the Bahrain certificate has added value.
'Bahrain is the only country in the world that has a law prohibiting artificial pearls, so the people should feel they are getting 100 per cent natural.
'I think Bahrain, especially in the last two years, has added a lot of Bahraini divers and this gives us support for this business.'
The Mattar family is one of Bahrain's oldest pearl jewellers and has been in the business for more than 150 years.
It had always been in the wholesale business, but in the last five to six years added a retail dimension to its portfolio.
Ebrahim Khalifa Mattar is the fifth generation to lead the family business and his son Talal and daughters Reem, Faten and Lubna are taking it into a sixth generation.
He was not planning to enter the family business and worked as a statistician at the Central Informatics Organisation for 21 years, but when his father died in 1997, he took up the mantle.
'This business is in my blood, everyday of my life I am seeing pearls and every week I see people bringing pearls to my father,' said Mattar.
Mattar said the pearl jewellery sector had taught him many skills, but patience was at the top of the list because sometimes it took decades to complete a necklace.
'Some necklaces take a very long time to make, some 10 to 15 years, so it ends up feeling like one of your sons,' he said.
'When you put the price for a necklace and you sell, you feel sad.
'The round necklaces take the longest and we are experts in this business. You won't see this type of graduation elsewhere.
'A necklace is endless, everything is a work in progress and when we design any piece we never keep a budget.
'It's not a good profitable business because you have to invest in buying the pearls and then it may take a very long time to find ones that match together, so you have to learn patience.
'Not all businesses give profit, but with this business you feel satisfied and proud of your work.'
Mattar said his company had its own divers, but also bought pearls from the market because it needed to have access to a large stock.
Once the pearls are collected they are classified and then sent for drilling.
'The most important necklaces in the world are done here in Bahrain because we have very good natural lighting for colour separation, but we only have four to five hours in the morning to do this,' he explained.
His daughter Reem is probably one of the few, if not the only woman in the Gulf working in the pearl industry.
She never expected to join the business, but one month turned into three years and now she cannot imagine doing anything else.
The 25-year-old enjoys the business so much that she has even recommended the choice to her two younger sisters Faten and Lubna, who are expected to join the company after they graduate in the next few years.
'I came back from university after graduating in computer science and my brother was going on honeymoon and someone needed to be in charge,' she said.
'I was supposed to work in the company for one month and here I am three years later.
'I never thought I would join the family business, Talal was more involved than me because he always used to sleep over my grandfather's house.
'It's not like a man's world, it's natural to see women in jewellery shops.
'I love everything, it's not a routine, there are different clients that I am dealing with.'
Talal always had a love for pearls and although he went to study Latin percussion in Lebanon it was not strange for him to join the company business.
'I was born with pearls around me, my grandfather and father used to classify pearls at home, so I learned about jewellery,' he said.
'In a way I feel you have to be in the family business, it's a must.
'Working in pearls is challenging because you don't always have the supply and it's not always easy, it's not like diamonds you can't cut it to the size and design you want.
'And it makes it harder when there has been a long history behind you because you have to continue with the same quality.'
Mattar Jewellers was one of 600 exhibitors from 30 countries that took part in Jewellery Arabia.
The 19th edition of the event was held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.-TradeArabia News Service