Khalid Al Sayegh, chairman of the Pearl Revival Committee, presents his book on pearls to Bilal Badour of the UAE Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development during the opening of the International Pearl Conference 2010 yesterday. With him are K.C. Bell, researcher and collector of natural pearls, and Maria Luisa Vitobello, president of the European Jewellery Technical Network. Image Credit: ABDUL RAHMAN/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Given Dalma Island's long history of pearl trading and the island's convenient geographical location, the emirate of Abu Dhabi still remains the main source of trading in pearls, gems and jewellery in the GCC, experts have said.

As part of the UAE's vision to revive what was once considered the main centre for the pearl industry, experts attending the second annual International Pearl Conference 2010 agreed that the industry indeed has a prosperous future in the country.

The experts concurred that even though gold, precious and semi-precious stones currently dominate the market, the pearl business looks promising.

Long history

Khalid Al Sayegh, chairman of the Pearl Revival Committee, said Dalma Island was considered the centre of diving in the days when pearl markets stood on its shores, regularly attracting pearl traders from as far as India.

"Dalma Island's annual revenue in the early 20th century from just the pearl trade was around $5,000 (Dh18,365).

The island was the primary centre for pearl trading in Abu Dhabi," he said on the sidelines of yesterday's conference.

"We now need the support of the UAE government to help revive the pearl business and once again turn Dalma [Island] into the centre of the universe for pearls."

According to Al Sayegh, the UAE has been involved in the pearl, gems and jewellery business over the past 636 years.

As part of efforts to promote the business, the Al Sayegh Group was among the first to become a certified jewellery store in 1947.

Speaking about pricing and the UAE pearl industry, Dr Ellen Lau, standing director at the Chamber of Commerce for Jewellery and Precious Metals Industry of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, said that despite the prices of pearl products being stable at the beginning of 2004, owing to an increase in costs of raw materials, prices are expected to increase in the near future.

"Freshwater pearls are proved to be suitable gems for jewellers regarding their quality, quantity, size, range, shape types, colour choices and ‘cost'," Lau said.

Largest export market

"The UAE is Hong Kong's largest export market in the Middle East, where exports to the UAE went up by 5.4 per cent, year-on-year, to $1.6 billion in the first eight months of 2010, [out of which the] total value for pearls, precious and semi-precious stones [stood] at $252 million," Lau said.

Maria Luisa Vitobello, president of the European Jewellery Technical Network, highlighted the need for preservation methods and the importance of natural pearls in Abu Dhabi.

"Natural pearls are the cultural asset of Abu Dhabi, and can be the most important testimonial of its cultural heritage, with consideration to the people, the craft, and the sea," Vitobello said.

"It is of ultimate importance that traders and end-users understand the authenticity and difference between natural pearls and cultured pearls," he added.

Presentation by Jeffrey Ruedas - CEO of International Commodities

Important dates related to gold

• 1971 - The US government suspended the dollars convertibility to gold

• 1975 - US abolished restrictions on citizens buying, selling, or owning gold

• 1976 - First IMF gold auction

• 1980 - Gold reaches all time high of $850 and silver hits $50

• 1999 - Central bank agreement (rise in gold price)

• 2010 - Milestone period for gold as it peaks at $1,424.