By Fazeena Saleem
DOHA: Some pearl sellers in the Gold Souq area are taking customers for a ride as they are passing off imported cultured pearls for the highly valued Qatari pearls to unsuspecting and gullible buyers, specially tourists.
“Customers should be very careful in distinguishing the cultured ones from genuine pearls so that they are not duped,” said a trader.
In particular, they cautioned Westerners to be careful while looking for natural Qatari pearls as some traders could exploit their gullibility – selling them cultured pearls from other countries.
“Many Westerners come looking for natural Qatari pearls. Some sellers take advantage of their interest and sell them cultured pearls, which are imported from other countries,” said a pearl seller in the gold souq for more than a decade.
The Qatari pearls are few and expensive. Most of these pearls are kept as exhibits or as collections. A natural Qatari pearl could cost approximately between QR5,000 and QR30,000 and is only available with some pearl collectors and handful of traders.
“There are only a few traders who sell natural Qatari pearls. Some old pearl divers have shops in the Souq Waqif,” said a shopkeeper.
“People here don’t go pearl diving now, so what is available in the market are the old ones and they are very few,” said a prominent pearl trader at the gold souq.
Therefore the modern-day commercially produced cultured pearls dominate the market, while some cheap artificial ones are also sold at varying prices.
In contrast to natural pearls, which have widely varying shapes, sizes, and qualities, and which difficult to find, cultured pearls could be ‘designed’ from the start to be round and primarily flawless.
“Nearly all pearls sold today are cultured pearls: Cultured pearls can be from saltwater or freshwater mollusks,” said Fazleem Fawz, at the Blue Gems, who sells gems and pearls for nearly six years at the gold souq.
Tahitian – black pearls, white pearls from the South Sea pearls and Japan’s Mick Moto are some of the popular pearls available in the market. South Sea pearls are among the largest commercially harvested cultured pearls in the world. A string of these pearls harvested in the salt water would coast between QR500 and QR750, while the fresh water ones are sold approximately at QR100.
Cultured pearls can be correctly distinguished from natural pearls through the use of X-rays, which reveals the inner nucleus of the pearl. However, cultured pearls are still real pearls, grown organically inside of oysters in the same way as natural pearls. The difference is that in the case of cultured pearls, the pearl farmer intentionally stimulates the development of the pearl by inserting a ‘nucleus’ into the oyster. The Peninsula
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