AL MAHMOOD PEARLS
BY ANAAM IKRAM
Bahrain without a doubt is home to some of the most precious pearls in the region. From breath taking G1 pearls to equally unique irregular pearls that are used to string together treasured necklaces or enhance other pieces of jewellery, the Bahraini pearls are renowned for being the best in all aspects of quality, shape, size, lustre, and colour. The unmatched quality and superiority of the pearls have garnered them fame across the world, with them being worn by the Maharajas in India and adorning their palaces, to the wealthy across the West using them as a symbol of affluence and class.
After seeing a fall in the market in the 1940s due to the rise of cultured pearls, Bahrain’s pearling industry saw a decline. The industry gained momentum once again after a ban was imposed on working with cultured pearls and revived the ancient practice, which once served as the main source of income for many as well as sustaining the Kingdom’s economy. Bahraini families that were involved in pearling from the very beginning saw the customs of their ancestors being reintroduced into their present, and found a means to re-establish their family businesses and the industry with a modern perspective.
The Al Mahmood family, part of Bahrain’s oldest pearl diving community, did just that and through their diligence, hard work and knowledge passed on from generation to generation, developed themselves into the Kingdom’s leading pearl dealers.
Generations of Pearling: The building of Al Mahmood Pearls
With seven generations of the Al Mahmood family being an integral part of the pearling industry in Bahrain, the family started as buyers and sellers of pearls as well collecting rare pearl finds around 200 years ago. It wasn’t until Abdul Razak Al Mahmood took over that it became an established entity that is known across the region as one of the most prestigious pearl dealers. Abdul Razak Al Mahmood’s father, who was a Tawash of a pearl diving team, set the foundation for the family to build the business upon through his extensive knowledge of pearling gained from years of experience. Using that knowledge, combined with the genuine passion and commitment to pearling, the Al Mahmood family was able to develop the family business into a well-known name amongst the pearl-collectors and jewellery enthusiasts alike.
As part of the few remaining families that were initially involved in the pearling industry, the Al Mahmood family almost saw themselves leaving the trade permanently in the 1960s when Abdul Razak left the business to start work in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. However, his love for pearls brought him back to Bahrain during the 1980s to once again pursue the pearling business and by 1983 he had taken the decision to set up their first showroom in the old souq. Abdul Razak’s tireless efforts and vigour in the industry resulted in him acquiring an extensive collection of rare pearls, as well as grabbing the attention of the late Sheikh Isa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, the First Emir of Bahrain. The late Emir’s interest in pearls lead him to purchasing them from all the vendors in the old market at the time, especially from Abdul Razak, for his travels to present as gifts. Appreciating Abdul Razak’s achievements as a pearl expert, the late Emir titled him the “Sheikh of Pearls”, in 1989, further cementing his status as one of the most distinguished members of the pearling industry.
Much like his father had done, Abdul Razak’s son, Mohamed and Jalal Al Mahmood, also joined, alongside his sister, Buthaina Al Mahmood, to further the family business – making them the seventh generation of Al Mahmood family members to join the industry. Accompanying his father from the young age of 7 years old, Mohamed says he witnessed working with some of the finest quality pearls at the time, something he is yet to see often even today. As the CEO of Al Mahmood Pearls, Mohamed works very closely with the customers to understand their needs when it comes to finding the right type of pearl, whereas Buthaina works on designing the jewellery as well managing the workshops.
Finding the true pearls: the different categories of pearl enthusiasts
To truly understand pearls and become an expert in the industry is a skill that cannot be picked up in a matter of weeks or months or by any form of training, rather takes years to master to be able to identify pearls of value. For Mohamed, it was his father who was his master and alongside whom he worked to become competent in this line of work. In pearling, it is not only important to identify which pearls are worth investing in for keepsake or for sale, but also necessary to differentiate between true pearl collectors and those who are interested in the fashionable elements of pearls. It is after this distinction is made that Al Mahmood Pearls will proceed to help their clients accordingly.
The importance behind making such a distinction is due to the fact that acquiring pearls is an arduous task in itself, and to build a collection of incredibly rare pearls is even more challenging. For those who understand the value behind certain pearls can appreciate when they come across one unlike they’ve seen any before. Mohamed explains that these pieces are not kept in the shop, rather they are put away safely for collectors of one-off pieces and it is gratifying to sell them a special kind of pearl, especially as they understand the labour endured to achieve it.
To the Al Mahmood family working with pearls is almost like raising one of their own children. With the passion and patience required to work pearls in order to string together a necklace, have a collection of loose pearls to use at the appropriate time, or try and find extraordinary pieces of pearls, the Al Mahmood family has created a strong image for themselves that comes with the reputation of housing some of the region’s most magnificent pearls. With such stature in the industry within the region, the humbled members of Al Mahmood family look at others in the market as partners and family instead of competition. Working in harmony with each other and building upon the trust their forefathers left behind, the Al Mahmood family, along with the others in the industry; focus on maintaining the mutual respect everyone has for one another.
Opulence: traditional, modern, and novel
Inspired from their Bahraini roots, Al Mahmood Pearls has incorporated traditional designs into their artistically handcrafted pearl jewellery, creating truly intricate and delicate pieces.
From multi-strand irregular pearl necklaces to single strand G1 necklaces, Al Mahmood Pearls has jewellery that is remarkable and classy at the same time. Incorporating other precious stones such as rubies, diamonds, and sapphires into their jewellery, the final pieces are nothing short of luxurious.
Expanding their work portfolio to reach a wider audience, Al Mahmood Pearls also works with other international jewellery brands. Working with international jewellery makers at affordable prices, the Al Mahmood family members meet with the designers personally and take along their pearls to get an accurate measurement in order to have them fit perfectly once the jewellery is complete. To ensure each piece of jewellery they retail gets a personal Al Mahmood touch, the completed jewellery is sent back to Bahrain and the pearls are fitted personally by the craftsmen at Al Mahmood Pearls. Working closely with famed French brand, Boucheron, Al Mahmood was the driving force behind the brand’s launch in Bahrain. Both, Al Mahmood Pearls and Boucheron, share the common factor that both have deep rooted history in working with natural pearls and it was the decision that lead to the Al Mahmood family working closely with the b
Though the Al Mahmood Pearls brand is an ever-evolving brand, it has stayed true the core of the business, and that is to offer its customers the highest quality of pearls. Whether it is the younger generation of pearl lovers, or the older generation for whom the pearl holds a special value, Al Mahmood Pearls has ensured that their refined yet modern designs appeal to everyone. Their growing clientele has also resulted in the launch of their showrooms across Bahrain, with two in Moda Mall, and one in Al A’ali Mall. Also catering to the corporate clientele, Al Mahmood Pearls works with companies to provide them with clocks, music boxes, bespoke gift items made on special order from the Gulf region and internationally, and in true Al Mahmood-style the gifts are adorned with gold and pearl detailing.
Whether it was for British Royalty, Hollywood queens, or the Arabian Sheikhs and Sheikhas, the pearl has always been a symbol of luxury, but for Bahrain it has always had a much deeper meaning. Representing the tradition, cultures, and heritage of the Kingdom, the pearl holds a special place in the fabric of Bahrain’s history, much like the Al Mahmood family. They strived and successfully solidified their position as the foremost distributors of pearls for generations, and their unyielding determination over the years has not only maintained that but also further enhanced their status. It is without a doubt, with every mention of Bahrain’s pearling history and the key players that arose it to success with each passing year, the Al Mahdmood family name will be among the first to be recalled.
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