It was in October 2006 as I was reading the Gulf News that I happened to find out about an auction. An article said that Christie’s was bringing a collection of jewelry to be displayed at the Emirates Towers Hotel for two days. After this brief showing the collection would be packed up and flown to Europe where each piece was to be sold at auction in Geneva three weeks later.
Christie’s was English and dealt only in top of the line art and antiques. As far as I knew, this was its first foray into Dubai, dipping its toe into the waters of the Arabian Gulf to check the temperature. It was a sign of the times. Dubai was booming and Christie’s wanted to explore this affluent, potentially lucrative new market before some rival company got the same idea.
Even more interesting than Christie’s tentative move was information about the jewelry it was bringing to display. Apparently some royal house that wished to remain anonymous was cleaning out the attic or garage or enormous walk-in safe or Swiss bank vault (or whatever else would be the royal equivalent) and disposing of a few unwanted possessions that they probably had forgotten they even owned. To be among these cast-offs was the Gulf Pearl Set. Because of its significance to the region it was to be the featured highlight of the Christie’s display. This set, composed of a necklace, bracelet, earrings and ring, was made of diamonds and pearls. The pearls had originated from the Arabian Gulf.
I knew something about the pearling trade of the region, how its pearls had been famous since biblical times, how pearling had been the life-blood of Bahrain especially but also Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other emirates. And I knew that when the trade had collapsed, the whole area fell into desperate poverty. But that was a long ago and Dubai is not a place that dwells on the past. Who would want to remember the bad old days? Dubai never looks back, only fast forward into the glass and steel future. So in all my time in Dubai I had never seen genuine Gulf pearls.
Now was my chance.