Pearl Hunting

  • Added:
    Apr 04, 2013
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Pearls
Pearls
Photo by MAURO CATEB

For a vast length of time, divers in the Indian Ocean gathered pearls. Also areas like the Red Sea and Persian Gulf were popular.

In those days pearl hunting had an element of danger, which even today still exists, albeit to a lesser degree.  The South China Sea was a popular place for the Chinese to hunt for pearls.  Hunting for pearls in the South China Sea started around the Han Dynasty (around 200bc).

Pearl hunting became very popular in areas such as Cubagua and Margarita, which are areas off the Venezuelan coast. The main reason for these areas becoming so popular was due to the simple fact that there were so many readily available pearls.  Nowadays Margarita pearls are very rare!

Divers used to dive down and manually extract the pearls from the bottom of the seabed and also from rivers.

Nowadays, in places like Dubai you can actually go pearl hunting!  As we have established earlier in this article, the Persian Gulf was (and still is) a very popular place to in go pearl hunting. Although considered dangerous, entrepreneurs have started to capitalize on this market by offering days out for those wanting to find pearls.

Making a living from pearl hunting requires a huge amount of time commitment, and also being happy to dive up to 40 meters is a useful prerequisite! However, on these pearl hunting days you will not be diving to such depths.  What you will learn on these days are where to look for pearls, and also what’s great is if you find a pearl you get to keep it!

In the 19th century pearl hunting accounted for over 90% of the region's economy in the gulf, including Dubai.

Many thousands of men used to work as divers. It was a very tough job as you cam imagine. May men lost their lives, and many suffered long term health issues from the nature of the work. The pearl divers were often rubbed in fats and oils to protect themselves from the seawater.

When vessels went out to sea they would often be cramped full of divers (over 100 per vessel at times). During these trips there were not just divers, but also men who did a range of jobs including a cook, ropes-men, a captain and even a singer!

The pearl hunters were very fit individuals – swimming lots kept them in shape. This was very important as they would have to dive down very fast, and then not breathe for up to 2 minutes.

Most people would find this very hard, but doing such when doing cardio-vascular exercise is something else! As you can imagine only younger men (under 40) could do this job. After the age of 40 most had either died or were too ill to continue.

This is the sad truth about the history of pearl hunting. Lucky today it is not as dangerous. However, it will ways have that inherent risk. That maybe is one of the reasons pearls are still so sought after today.

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In the 19th century pearl hunting accounted for over 90% of the regions economy in the gulf, including Dubai. More details pearl jewellery in dubai


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