For "Tears of Mermaids", Stephen G. Bloom traveled 30,000 miles to trace a single pearl - from the moment a diver off the coast of Australia scoops from the ocean floor an oyster containing a single luminescent pearl to the instant a woman on the other side of the world 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 Japan, China, the Philippines, French Polynesia and Australia. Bloom infiltrates high-tech pearl farms and processing facilities guarded by gun-toting sentries, and insinuates himself into the lives of powerful international pearl lords. Bloom farms for pearls in rural China, goes behind scenes at million-dollar auctions in Hong Kong, trails pearl brokers and Internet entrepreneurs in Asia, hires himself out as a deckhand on an Australian pearling vessel, and 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 of the world's most enduring gem.
STEPHEN G. BLOOM, a professor of journalism at the University of Iowa, is author of "Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America, "and co-author (with Peter Feldstein) of "The Oxford Project." He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.