<%-- Page Title--%> Eco-Diary <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 154 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

May 14, 2004

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Pearls A treasure yet to be Explored

Syeda Nazma Ahmed Kona

Bangladesh is well known for its pearl, produced naturally along its coastal areas and scattered islands. Unfortunately, very few of those who wear pearl ornaments know how and where these come from. In Bangladesh most natural pearls are gathered by poor villagers living along the coast. They sell pearl and many other marine products including black gold, to the local merchants to make a living. Chinese clay and coral are also collected and sold by these local people. Unfortunately, the available marine treasures, which could be a lucrative industry in Bangladesh, have not been adequately explored yet.

Pearl, grown naturally along the coastal areas, are usually collected by the local women. However, naturally formed pearl does not come in even shape, or right colour and texture. Because of these reasons, natural pearls often collected over years, do not get a good price, especially in big cities, like Dhaka or Chittagong.

When I was in Hawaii, I saw pearls being sold in the market, as they naturally form inside the shell which were kept alive underwater in small bowls. One can buy these on the spot, the shell is opened, the pearl is taken out. With the government’s support the pearl culture could be developed as a profitable home industry in this country. Besides producing cosmetic pearl, the shell can be used to produce useful chemicals, such as calcium oxide of very high quality. The ash produced by burning pearls is used in the treatment of many diseases by the folk healers in many communities. Beside pearls, the minerals found in the white clay in Netrokona and Narsingdi areas are also useful for making specialised household items. Many importers of pearl in this country bring their materials primarily from India, however, most cultured pearls are imported from other countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.

In Bangladesh, natural pearls are mostly found along the coast in Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Maheshkhali and St Martin island. Natural pearls found in these areas are of very good quality, usually light-pink in colour and thus are costly. After collecting from these area, pearls are sold in the local markets or to individual merchants. In Chittagong coastal areas, the sea shells appear to be round in shape. Some pearl producing shells are also found along the coast of Khulna areas.

So, what is cultured pearl? These are produced artificially using natural shells in selected areas along the coast or in isolated aquatic reservoirs. The process involves introduction of a small grit of mineral, usually sand particle, inside a living sea shell, it is then left to grow in water naturally for five to six months. In naturally formed pearls, this process depends on nature and thus, not always leads to the formation of a pearl. Continued deposit of minerals on the sand particle occur from the internal secretion inside the living shells -- finally producing a beautiful pearl. Cultured pearls produced in this way usually maintain their uniform size and shape and are a little less costly than the natural pearls of similar quality. Most cultured pearls available in Bangladesh are imported, although there is a great opportunity to develop the cultured pearl industry right here in this country. If the government is interested, this could be developed into a profitable local industry that could attract foreign investment.

Marine treasures are abundant along the vast coast lines of Bangladesh. These include coral, sea shell and its products (pearl, calcium, minerals), black gold, and white clay to name a few. Bangladesh government should take interest in developing the marine industry as a source of national revenue and local employment.



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