Pearls are the national icon that represent the past and present of Bahrain. Follow our tips to get the best out of a souvenir purchase
Pearls are something of a national icon and make a popular Bahraini souvenir. Those who dream of taking home some pearls (ignore the old saying that ‘pearls bring tears’ and that dreaming about them is an omen of ill luck for the dreamer), should head on over to the Gold City. Despite its name, the arcade is home to a plethora of pearl shops, but we can vouch for the Pearl Palace. This pearl emporium is run by the amiable Mr Kumar Shah – a veritable source of knowledge. Mr Kumar enlightened Time Out that a pearl’s worth can be determined by its lustre – if you can see a reflection of your face clearly by gazing in the pearl, then it’s a high quality lustre. The superior lustre of Bahraini pearls is believed to be caused by the sweet water springs that bubble up through the seabed.
The ‘classic’ piece of pearl jewellery is of course the pearl necklace. Expect to pay around BD60-70 for a necklace, with loose pearls costing in the region of BD30. Small discounts may be negotiable but for the most part – despite the souk- like atmosphere that prevails – prices for pearl jewellery are fixed. Whether you opt for earrings or barter over a bracelet, pearls require more ‘tlc’ than other gemstones, owing to being softer, more delicate and therefore more susceptible to scratches. Substances such as hair spray and perfume can cloud the brilliance of pearls, so it’s a good idea to apply any cosmetics before putting them on. Because of their delicacy, pearls should be stored separately – wrap them in soft cloth or in a soft-lined container, pouch or jewellery box.
Anyone purchasing pearls can rest assured that they are the real deal. Cultured pearls are banned from the Bahraini market in an effort to preserve the Kingdom’s heritage (all imported pearls are tested at the Gemstone & Pearl Testing Laboratory at the Ministry of Commerce & Industry) and shop keepers such as Kumar and co are vehemently loyal and won’t risk their licence to flog you artificial, imported ones.
Top cultured pearls might appear identical to natural pearls and easier on the wallet, but the crux of the matter is that at the end of the day, a cultured pearl is nothing more than a piece of plastic.
The Pearl Palace (17 213 248/www.pearlpalace.com), Gold City, Government Avenue, Central Manama. Open Sat-Thu 10.30am-1.30pm, 4.30pm-9.30pm; Fri 4.30pm-9.30pm.