It’s a town built on the world’s insatiable desire for pearls and pearl shell, and one with a complex heritage. From its earliest inhabitants to its pearling industry and wartime stories, the history and culture of Broome is as intricate as the beautiful jewellery and art it inspires.
The most famous aspect of Broome is arguably its rich pearling history. In Broome’s heyday, Chinatown was abuzz with pearl luggers, divers, deckhands, brothels, opium dens and illegal gambling. Skin-divers would scour the sea bed for the famous Pinctada Maxima, the largest pearl shell in the world. Pearl luggers would line up in their hundreds along Roebuck Bay, where one could hop from boat to boat for four kilometres without getting your feet wet. It would have been drastically different to the Broome we know today, although you can see and sense echoes of the past as you walk through the streets. From the late 1800s the town swelled as the world caught rumour of the beautiful pearls and pearl shell that could be found off the Broome coast. Just like a gold rush, many ventured to Broome in search of their fortune. People from China, Japan, England, Indonesia, and elsewhere flocked to the region, enriching Broome with their culture and traditions. In a time when the rest of the Australia and the world was still heavily segregated, Broome became famous for its rich and diverse culture; something we are still known for today.
The highest quality pearls soon put Broome on the map from an international perspective. For many years later pearl luggers would return to Broome off loading cargo nets filled with pearl shell which would be exported all over the world to make jewellery and other high end fashion items. The sailors and divers from these vessels carved Broome into what it is today; a multicultural outback town that is more isolated and diverse than any other town in the world.
The Kimberley’s diamond industry is much more recent than its pearling equivalent, but has rapidly become known around the world for its incredible pink, yellow and champagne diamonds.
The story of diamonds in the Kimberley began in the late 1970s at Smoke Creek, when a geologist in search of uranium kicked a rock on the bank which turned out to be a diamond. A proposal was made to begin exploring and after many years of research and discovery, the Argyle Diamond Mine was commissioned in December 1985.
The mine centres around a volcanic pipe of lamproite, rather than the more usual kimberlite pipe found elsewhere, and as a result produces the famous and highly coveted pink diamond amongst its many white and coloured diamonds. In fact, Argyle is the world’s only known significant source of these rosy-hued gemstones. The team at Jewels of the Kimberley prides itself on its breathtaking designs featuring these romantic pink diamonds, as well as white, yellow and champagne diamonds that are produced by the region.
As Broome is the gateway to the Kimberley, explorers and geologists have found even more hidden treasures beneath this vast landscape including Australian gold from Halls Creek, as well as the mysterious art named ‘The Bradshaws’ and an amazing indigenous culture which is still being discovered today.
You’ll find the Jewels of the Kimberley studio in Broome’s iconic Chinatown, which is situated on a spectacular peninsula where the pure white sands of Cable Beach meet deep red pindan cliffs.
Cable Beach is world famous for its 22 kilometres of pristine white sand set against a backdrop of red cliffs, fringed by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. The amazing landscape surrounding this town is so ancient that dinosaur footprints and fossils can be found within a five minute drive from the centre of the town.
As you explore Broome, you can see evidence of its complex history in the old storefronts, street names and buildings. The iconic Roebuck Hotel was established in 1890 and is still abuzz with pearlers to this day. The Sun Picture Garden began screenings in 1913 and is the world’s oldest picture garden still in operation. Broome’s resilience saw the town survive through two world wars, including a Japanese air raid in March 1942. Broome has countless heartbreaking, uplifting and colourful stories that are still being uncovered.
Add to this heritage the flourishing, creative atmosphere of Broome today, and you have a town that exudes charm, culture and history. It is this magical and completely unique mix, as well as the region’s rich natural resources, that inspire us and our designs at Jewels of the Kimberley.
Broome is known as the gateway to the Kimberley for good reason. From here, you can head off into the wilderness with scenic flights and driving tours through the rugged outback, or self drive for a great adventure at your own pace. You can choose to delve into unchartered waters on board one of the luxury cruises that hug the Kimberley coast to see places that can only be seen by boat. The Kimberley is a natural refuge for many unique species with an extraordinary range of habitats. Ancient rock paintings, amazing waterfalls and giant crocodiles are everywhere as you cruise the gentle waters of the many rivers and estuaries. This abundance of natural beauty has inspired our own Kimberley Collection; a range of jewellery that reflects the Kimberley’s vivid colours and organic shapes.
Our team is constantly gaining inspiration from this magical region which is rich in amazing landscapes, materials, people and culture. We hope you’ll visit soon, and enjoy the awe and wonder that only the Kimberley region can evoke.