Broome Pearls – Early History
When you think of the beautiful town of Broome, pearls are the first thing that comes to mind. Broome is synonymous with the natural pearl and mother of pearl industry over the last, almost, 200 years. The town has adapted and catered to the fashions and changes in fashion to be become the most famous place associated with pearls in the southern hemisphere and the whole world. So how did this happen? Originally it was a case of right place right time. A huge natural oyster resource that provided the oyster shells, so craved by Victorian England for buttons and other fashion items. The demand from the early nineteenth century seemed to always outstrip supply so it was viable for Broome entrepreneurs to venture further and further away from the safe oyster colonies close to the shore to deeper and deeper locations. The skills require to harvest the oysters originally were very basic but as the oysters were harvested from deeper water, divers were needed to continue to supply the insatiable European demand. Originally the local indigenous people, predominantly women were employed to dive for the oyster shells. Over time Japanese and Chinese immigrants filled the diving roles and many perished from the bends, cyclones and other causes. Their memories are immortalised in two cemeteries dedicated to each group of divers. No trip to Broome is complete without a visit to either or both of these iconic places. The Japanese and Chinese divers are forever a part of Broome history and culture and their legacy is found in street and place names, like Johnny Chi Lane in Chinatown.
In the second decade of the twentieth century technology changed the pearling industry, as Broome new it, for ever. Mother of Pearl had been the predominate material for buttons and other common items for nearly a century, but plastics and other substitutes almost overnight cut the demand by 70%. This was devasting for the mother of pearl industry and the commencement of WW1 in 1914 cut demand again. The mother of pearl industry would never recover as technological change could not be reversed.
Broome Pearls – Modern History
The ability to create cultured pearls in the early twentieth century discovered by Mikimoto made pearls more affordable to the masses. There were significant economic issues caused by WW1, the great depression and WW2 during which the pearling industry in Broome was subdued. In 1950 the Australian Federal government reversed the previously enacted law and allowed cultured pearls to be produced in Australia. This was the catalyst the pearl entrepreneurs in Broome had been waiting for and not long after a local company entered into joint venture with a Japanese company. The Japanese company had mastered the art of implanting the beads to grow cultured pearls and the pearling industry as the know it today was born.
The waters around Broome are a natural environment for the oysters which produce the south sea pearls and very quickly Broome established itself as the best place in the southern hemisphere to grow and produce the best quality pearls. The pristine waters around Broome provide the perfect environment to produce high quality pearls. The success of the first cultured pearl venture led to other businesses starting and the town’s reputation for quality pearls grew. Broome attracted innovative and talented jewellery designers to produce settings and designs to maximise the natural beauty of the pearls. Whether in rings, bracelets, necklaces or earrings, pearls make a unique jewellery statement. For over 60 years Broome pearls have been the premier pearls and highly sought after for their colour and natural lustre.
There is something very special and alluring about commemorating your visit to Broome with a pearl which will always remind you of your visit to an extraordinary place. If you would like any further information on Broome pearls please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us 08 9468 8116 at Anastasia’s of Broome .