Business & Finance: Superlatives Exhausted

Parched and stinking, Bahrein Island barely breaks the surface of the Persian Gulf. European pates soon addle, uninsulated from its vicious sun. Before its troughs of rotting oysters, queasy European nostrils quail. Impervious to sun and stink, Arab traders hunker down, paddle the bubbling compost, comb it with their fingers.

A blue-gummed, henna-bearded gaffer, Jack Horner-like, pulls out a lump. Feverishly he wipes the gluey carrion on a corner of his burnoose. Marshallah! A rose-pink pearl, pale, perfect, which—flesh-embedded—escaped the first casual pawing of the opened shells.

Wrapped in a shred of muslin...