DUBAI // Pearl trading through Dubai rose more than 300 per cent last year, according to statistics from Dubai World. Thanks to the Dubai Pearl Exchange (DPE), trade for pearls increased from Dh22 million (US$5.99m) in 2007 to Dh95m, and industry insiders predict it will continue to grow. Gaiti Rabbani, the executive director for coloured stones and pearls of the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), said the launch of the DPE in 2007 provided a much-needed structured platform to facilitate and monitor the pearl trade. "In 2008, we really started seeing trade coming through," she said. "Dubai's strategic location also helped, and producers started coming to do private sales under the Pearl Exchange."
Among the latest big sales through the DPE was a $5m private tender last month, Ms Rabbani said, just ahead of the World Pearl Forum. The two-day event organised by the DMCC brought 200 of the world's leading pearl producers to the emirate and was the latest initiative aimed at branding Dubai as a trading base. According to Dubai World's statistics department, loose pearl imports, both natural and cultured, increased in value from Dh15.6m in 2007 to Dh50.1m last year. Re-exports jumped from Dh6.4m to Dh45.6m during the same period. Overall, the loose pearl trade rose by 324 per cent. KP Baiju, the chief executive of Buz Consulting and the former head of the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group, said the creation of infrastructure for trading and other marketing initiatives had helped raise interest and confidence in the pearl trade.
This was further boosted by major jewellery retailers such as Damas and JoyAlukkas launching their own pearl brands in the past eight months, he said. "The change that has happened in the past few months with pearl exchange is pretty visible. This has propelled the import of pearls from various countries to Dubai." Trade in natural pearls has grown 10 times, driven by imports through Hong Kong and Switzerland, as well as Australia and the UK, according to the DMCC. Cultured pearl trade has been driven through imports from Australia and Singapore.
With about 500 more jewellery stores expected to open in Dubai by 2012 - for a total of about 1,700 - retail sales would also rise at an annual rate of 10 to 15 per cent, outpacing gold and diamonds, said Mr Baiju. Amit Dhamani, the chief executive of Dhamani Jewels, expects the pearl trade to grow significantly. Mr Dhamani said pearls were still largely under-represented here, despite the region's history of pearling, and any systematic effort to boost it would have an effect.
"It's like evolution," he said. "Before it was gold, then diamonds, then coloured stones. Now I think it is time for pearls." firstname.lastname@example.org