Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Tears of Mermaids

Tears of Mermaids

The Secret Story of Pearls

Stephen G. Bloom

St. Martin's Press



A round, luminescent pearl is the simplest and most perfect gem. Columbus sought—and found—this precious jewel coveted by his Spanish sovereigns, sparking popularity throughout Europe. Fashion icons Jacqueline Kennedy, Princess Grace, and Michelle Obama cherished them, making them iconic. And designer Coco Chanel raised them to new heights, bringing pearls— fake and real—to women everywhere. In Tears of Mermaids, Stephen G. Bloom travels 30,000 miles in an effort to trace a single pearl—from the moment a diver off the coast of Australia scoops an oyster containing a single luminescent pearl from the ocean floor to the instant a woman fastens the clasp of a strand containing the same orb. Bloom chronicles the never-before-told saga of the global pearl trade by gaining access to clandestine outposts in China, the Philippines, French Polynesia and Australia. He infiltrates high-tech pearl farms guarded by gun-toting sentries, farms for pearls in rural China, and even goes backstage at Christie's for a fast and furious auction of the most expensive pearl ever sold. Teeming with rogue humor and uncanny intelligence, Tears of Mermaids weaves a nonstop detective story whose main character is the world's most enduring jewel.


Praise for Tears of Mermaids

“In Tears of Mermaids, Stephen G. Bloom tells the history of the pearl trade down to the present day, focusing in particular on the harvesting and marketing of pearls in today's global markets. As Mr. Bloom makes clear, pearls are still big business, with dealers routinely exchanging hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time for just the right ones. And certain pearls command astonishing prices. One striking quality of pearls, Mr. Bloom tells us, is the aesthetic rapport they form with their wearers, absorbing body heat and seeming to glow and reflect luminescence onto the skin. For millennia, only the wealthiest members of society could hope to know this quality first-hand. And now millions of people can.” —Wall Street Journal

“a labor of love and obsession. Bloom was inspired by a necklace his mother would wear only on special occasions and wound up traveling 30,000 miles over four years in his quest to uncover info on the global pearl trade and its origins.” —New York Post

Tears of Mermaids is more than just the biography of a milky orb. It's also an adventurer's travel log, in which Bloom muses on his favorite experiences like living as a deckhand on an Australian pearling vessel and singing karaoke with Chinese businessmen. Bloom's adventure goes a long way in proving the pearl is anything but plain-especially when he's observing an auction at Christie's, where a string of 68 gumball-sized pearls belonging to an Indian Maharaja are up for grabs. Final price? $6.3 million.” —More Magazine

“Bloom's adventure goes a long way in proving the pearl is anything but plain-especially when he's observing an auction at Christie's, where a string of 68 gumball-sized pearls belonging to an Indian Maharaja are up for grabs. Final price? $6.3 million.” —More Magazine

“The most memorable pearls in Tears of Mermaids are not in the necklace Michelle Obama wears, but the ones that are missing. Time after time, a fisherman, diver, or small-scale pearl farmer recalls a tremendous pearl he found on the ocean floor. But they always disappear: lost, sold by a spouse, swindled away by a supposed friend. The fishermen seem upset, but not much. They seem to know, even without an economics class, that the value is not the pearl itself, but the setting.” —Orion Magazine

“Bloom, a journalism professor at the University of Iowa, has poured his passion into Tears of Mermaids: The Secret Story of Pearls, a tell-all book about pearls and the network that delivers them to the world's well-dressed women. The more we learn, the more contagious his passion becomes. He introduces characters worthy of a screenplay -- the swaggering Australian pearl lord, the Chinese pearler in her Cadillac and sprayed-on jeans, and the improbable "Rana of Fresno," whose home in a modest subdivision is a treasure chest of rare pearls.a fascinating book.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Anyone who's ever dreamed about a string of black Tahitians will be enchanted.” —Publishers Weekly

“Bloom's love of pearls--which are, after all, "essentially calcium-coated beads"--allows him to draw back the curtain on the business of dealing in them without ruining his or the reader's pleasure in their charms.” —Library Journal

“A satisfying mixture of history, science and popular culture.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Forget The Treasure of Sierra Madre--gold is so boring when it's up against the story of pearls. In Tears of Mermaids, Stephen Bloom takes you into a world of bravado and mystery as he traces, in a multi-continent quest, where pearls come from. Bloom, in league with writers who go deeper and practice what I call "method journalism", did everything but become an oyster to understand pearls. His passion for the pearl is infectious--it will be difficult for you to put this book down.” —Dale Maharidge, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of And Their Children After Them.

“Stephen Bloom takes us into a world so hidden it might as well be underwater. This richly-written book about pearls is about more than the bauble. It is about the human story--both glorious and sad--behind those organic spheres that have been the subject of popular fascination since the discovery of the Americas. An incredible feat of reportage.” —Tom Zoellner, author of The Heartless Stone: A Journey Through the World of Diamonds, Deceit and Desire and Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock that Shaped the World

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Stephen G. Bloom

STEPHEN G. BLOOM, the Bessie Dutton Murray Professor of Journalism at the University of Iowa, is the author of Postviile: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, Inside the Writer's Mind, and The Oxford Project (with Peter Feldstein). For more than 20 years, Bloom was an award-winning reporter for The Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, and San Jose Mercury News. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Stephen G. Bloom

Stephen G. Bloom

Stephen G. Bloom

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