To harvest pearls like this, it once took 30 men and a four-month voyage across the Persian Gulf. And it was worth the journey. Pearls made up 75% of the Gulf’s total exports at the end of the 19th century.
Pearling was the pillar of local economies on the Gulf, employing nearly half of Qatar’s population alone. But a new way to harvest pearls changed everything. And by the mid-1900s, pearl diving had nearly vanished.
Pearling on the Persian Gulf dates back to the Stone Age.
Wearing an all-cotton, traditional diving suit, the diver jumps in feet-first.
A clip made from turtle shell or sheep’s bone keeps his nose plugged, and a stone weight tied to his feet pulls him under the surface.
Submerged for one or two minutes, he collects the oysters in a woven basket. When it’s time to come up, the seib — the crew member managing the ropes — pulls him up onto the boat. Then, the crew cracks open the oysters and counts the pearls.
Read more about Pearl diving, and how the centuries-old industry is vanishing, on the Business Insider website HERE