24 May 2019
Broome’s pearling legacy
To celebrate the revitalisation of Broome’s vibrant Chinatown precinct, we revisit our humble beginnings in the historic pearling town and share insight into how our co-founder Bill Reed reshaped the pearling industry in Broome.
A pearling pioneer, explorer and marine biologist, Allure South Sea Pearls co-founder William (Bill) Reed AM has dived in pristine coastal waters around the world, travelling to some of the most exotic and remote locations in pursuit of the perfect pearls.
After studying zoology and fisheries biology at university, a young Bill sought a position that would allow him to pursue his passion for the sea. He would spend the next 20 years traversing the world and exploring the diverse seas of Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Nigeria and Tahiti.
In 1975 after selling his pearl farm and leaving the tropical shores of Tahiti, Bill returned to Australia and settled in beautiful Broome to work as a consultant for one of the first cultured pearl farms in Australia at Kuri Bay, 370km North of Broome.
This new journey in Broome would see him build his reputation as one of the world’s most knowledgeable and successful pearl dealers, earning him the prestigious Order of Australia for his contributions to the pearling industry.
Having amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience, Bill acquired a pearl farm which was situated in the pristine and unpolluted waters off the Kimberley coast. The conditions were ideal for the precious Pinctata maxima oyster to blossom and produce an abundance of large, lustrous pearls.
According to Bill, the success of Australian South Sea pearls on the global market saw them recognised as ‘the finest and most prestigious pearls in the world’. As the desire and demand for these precious gems grew, it made it almost impossible to buy a local pearl in Broome.
In a twist of fate and a ‘very profitable accident’ as Bill recounts today, a broken leg saw Bill reshape the pearling industry in the historic town. Unable to work and travel to his pearl farm, a wheel-chair bound Bill set-up shop in a rudimentary Colorbond shed, with ‘no real flooring, a few cabinets directly positioned on the towns iconic red dirt.’ Bill had become an accidental shopkeeper and the first person, to officially sell pearls in Broome, in modern times. He offered genuine Australian South Sea pearls to locals and tourists, and nothing short of a surprise, the new business venture was an immediate success.
This lucky “break” generated substantial regular income and cash flow that had previously only been a yearly payday after the harvest was sold. However, clients began to ask for pearl jewellery and this luxury was not yet on offer in Broome. Always the entrepreneur, Bill set out to find a talented jeweller to craft a selection of jewellery that would beautifully showcase his stunning pearls. By the late 1980’s the pearl store had flourished and Bill invited young Perth jeweller Lindsay Youd to join him in Broome, to help manage the growing business.
A second generation jeweller, Lindsay had been captivated by the romance and lustre of South Sea pearls in his father’s workshop and revelled at the opportunity to work with these striking treasures again.
With increasing demand for unique hand crafted pearl and diamond jewellery, Bill and Lindsay arranged for some talented goldsmiths to establish a workshop in their newly renovated building on Dampier Terrace. This eventually led to the creation of Allure South Sea Pearls, which offers a stunning range of pearl and diamond jewellery across Australia and internationally.
Far from its humble beginnings, Allure now has a beautiful light-filled boutique in the heart of bustling and dynamic Chinatown. While some things have vastly changed within the pearling industry and the business, others have remained the same. After 25 years, their exquisite couture collection is still handcrafted by master jeweller John Eberhart in the workshop above their Dampier Terrace showroom.
Intricately crafted with 18-carat gold and only the finest quality South Sea pearls and diamonds, Allure’s designs continue to celebrate and pay homage to their home town of Broome, their link to nature and the beautiful environment that surrounds them. Every Allure jewellery piece brings out the singular beauty of each pearl, celebrating nature’s most magnificent treasures.