Broome pearls adorn crown jewels around the world; the Queen wears them to State banquets and morning teas; Sharon Stone flashes them at the Oscars; and in Asia they are symbols of both achievement and enlightenment.
Occupying the luxury end of the market, South Sea pearls earned the industry $196 million last year and although their price is high, the international spread of well-heeled folk who buy them is expanding.
The marketing and jewellery arms of the industry have been flexing in tandem with pearl production, working to increase sales and distribution and create imaginative fine jewellery which challenges the traditional notion that pearls are just necklaces worn with twinsets.
One man ideally placed to comment on the growth in interest in pearls and pearl jewellery worldwide is David Norman. David's involvement in the industry started when he was quite young. He was born into a pearling family with connections in Japan and Thursday Island and, as he grew up, was determined to stay in the industry; today he is pearl marketing consultant at Broome Pearls Pty Ltd.
His busy job takes him to Broome, where he grades and values pearls during harvest time (about 80,000 in the last crop) to international trade fairs, regular clients and developing markets.
He sells 'raw' unset pearls, rounds, "keshi' and "mabe' and also acts as a broker by buying and selling produce from smaller farms.
Different types of pearls fetch very different prices, depending on their rarity and quality but, as David explains, the best pearls are extremely valuable.
"About 20 per cent of the whole pearl harvest is completely clean - that's over all the different shapes and sizes - and the rest of them have some kind of flaw or blemish," he said.
"The ones which are blemish-free sell for an enormous amount of money, perhaps $15,000 a pearl wholesale, and the very large size perfect ones certainly sell for a lot!'