Pearl merchants’ crisis

It was a great economic crisis in Kuwait and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states when cultured pearls appeared in markets in 1928. This was shocking for pearl merchants because the new commodity started competing with natural pearls in terms, perfectness, shape, color and brightness, all while being available for cheaper prices. In addition, there was an oversupply of natural pearls that was offered for sale on markets at the time, which had already caused its prices to fall because merchants did not agree on set prices.

All this happened during or just prior to the global depression of 1929 when people had stopped purchasing luxurious goods, preferring to save whatever wealth they possessed. Many of them worked in the pearling industry starting from divers all the way to iconic pearl merchants. Markets were already dying out, depression was prevailing and other jobs were already scarce.
Accordingly, benevolent merchants stopped paying usual aid they used to pay to support education and culture. Aiding the poor was also affected when many of the rich became poor themselves, or even broke. The Japanese were the ones who invented artificial pearls when they realized that pearls were formed when foreign objects enter pearl oyster shells, and the living shelled mollusk starts to cover it with calcium carbonate to protect its soft tissues. Thus, they started injecting glass powder into shells to form those artificial cultured pearls, killing the industry of the natural pearls in the process. – Translated by Kuwait Times from Al-Anbaa

By Dr Saleh Al-Ojairi

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