Pearls are considered as highly prized jewellery since thousands of years. There was always huge demand for saltwater pearls. However, now it is obtained mainly through cultivation.
Following are the main sources of saltwater pearls.
The coasts of Oman, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the major pearl producing areas of the world. These waters have been producing creamy white pearls for over 2,000 years.
During May-September which is diving season, many small boats are working on these waters. Pearls are obtained from oysters; they are washed and sold to India.
After necessary processing poor-quality pearls are sent to Far East and better pearls are sent mostly to Paris. From Paris it is mostly exported to the US.
Gulf of Manaar
This is in the arm of Indian Ocean and lies between India and Sri Lanka. For above 2,500 years, this is one of the important sources of pearls in this area. The government of Sri Lanka controls all the fishing and auctions of the oyster.
The oysters are then opened by just leaving them on ground to rot. People then search the decomposed matters for pearls. Pearls from here go to Bombay for further processing.
Divers in armoured suits usually fish for only pearl oysters in the northwest, west, and north coasts. Silvery white to yellowish pearls are produced here. Recovery of shell is also a big industry here.
This refers to south Pacific and the Indian oceans, and these pearls are generically called as “Tahitian Pearls.” These pearls can grow large and are generally round. Tahiti is one of the major centres of pearl.
Japanese waters nowadays rapidly becoming very polluted for natural existence of any Pinctada. Cultured pearls of white colour constitute much bigger industry in this area.
Mexico and Panama
Until 20th century, major sources of pearls were from here; today they are producing Tahitian-type cultured pearls.
California and Florida
Occasionally they are found in the USA. Mostly they are conch pearls or abalone. California also produces few black pearls.
Venezuelan oysters usually produce small pearls only.
Now they are not producing many pearls. Pearls found here are whiter than most.