Broome Pearl Merchants

Broome emerged as the pearling capital of Australia because of the value of pearlshell as a material, with natural pearls a rare by-product. Natural pearls have always been valuable and were the primary focus of other pearling regions, such as the Persian Gulf and Ceylon, which have a small species of mother-of-pearl oyster that regularly creates small natural pearls. Broome’s Pinctada maxima only produces a natural pearl every few thousand shells, but with so much shell being collected, there was a small natural-pearl trade. Pearl merchants such as TB Ellies moved to Broome from Ceylon. He specialised in pearl skinning and was known as the ‘Pearl Doctor’.