Sustainable Jewelry – Why Fine Saltwater Cultured Pearls are Sustainable Gems
We often hear about “sustainability” and the many efforts the fine jewelry industry is making to ensure that the jewelry being offered is more aligned with contemporary values regarding the environment, as well as social consciousness. So, we thought we would take a look at how and why fine saltwater cultured pearls are actually sustainable and how you can feel confident and comfortable with your purchase of luxury pearls from a reputable brand like Assael.
Departures magazine said it best, in 2018, “Pearls just may be the most sustainable gems in the world. You see, oysters need pristine water conditions to produce high-quality pearls. Any decline in water quality, directly impacts oyster health, resulting in poorer pearl quality. … Thus, pearl farmers are naturally also stewards of the sea, in order to protect their investment.”
Assael cultured pearls create sustainable jewelry that not only limits detrimental impact to the planet but also creates a positive impact on the ecosystem of our beloved oceans. Clean water, recycling, reduced waste, and local business development are all hallmarks of the saltwater pearl farms where Assael sources its magnificent pearls.
Clean Water – Saltwater Pearl Farmers Invest Time, Effort, and Money in Cleaning the Oceans
Saltwater pearl farmers earn their livelihood from the sea. They have a clear and vested interest in protecting the cleanliness and wellbeing of the world’s oceans, especially in their local environments. To produce beautiful pearls, healthy oysters are required. Oysters are filter feeders. According to National Geographic, “oysters feed by extracting algae and other food particles from the water they are almost constantly drawing over their gills.” For this reason, they are considered an indicator species because they pick up pollutants in the water and cannot swim to avoid them. Without clean water, oysters can perish before pearls can be formed. Healthier ocean conditions allow the oysters to live longer and produce bigger, more valuable pearls with greater luster. The better the quality of the pearls, the more profit the farmers can earn from their pearls.
It is important to note the emphasis on saltwater pearls. Freshwater pearls come from lakes and rivers, not oceans. Assael does not carry freshwater pearls and makes no statement on the sustainability of freshwater pearls.
Christina Lang Assael, former President & CEO of Assael, made it clear in a 2018 interview with Robb Report, that Assael has always been passionately committed to the world’s oceans. “When we abuse the balance of nature, we set off a chain reaction of change, to the detriment of the environment in which we live.” For this reason, Assael continues to be extremely selective about the saltwater pearl farmers that supply Assael pearls, opting to work exclusively with modern pearl farmers who produce beautiful gem pearls by protecting the oceans in which they grow.
Sustainable Cycle – Oysters are Recultivated, and Waste is Limited
One important aspect of sustainability is reduction of waste. The ability to reuse natural materials in the formation of new products creates processes that are more beneficial to the natural environment, reducing waste and excess. Pearls are biogenic gems that form in a natural process inside of living organisms called mollusks (for more on how pearls are formed, click here). The type of mollusk can vary, but the typical classic pearl is grown inside a living oyster. As mentioned above, it is important that the oysters have healthy and thriving oceans for them to live long lives, allowing the pearls to grow inside their shells for years. After a pearl harvest, those same oysters are often recultivated to produce yet another pearl later.
Further, there is often very little waste in pearl farms. Pearl farmers will use the nacre, or mother-of-pearl that is discarded by the pearl as a byproduct of cultivation, for carvings, jewelry, and other things. The harvested oysters that are not suitable for pearl consumption are also consumed as food in the local markets. This lack of waste is another element of pearl cultivation that promotes sustainability.
Pearls Give Back – Pearl Farms Provide Local Business Opportunities in Developing Countries
Pearls farms are also socially conscious businesses. Because of the need for clean, non-polluted waters, most pearl farms are established in fairly remote, less-populated areas of the globe like Northwest Australia, Tahiti, and Fiji that have not been exceedingly impacted by overpopulation or human pollution. Not only must the pearl farmers keep the ocean clean and healthy as referenced above, they also create business opportunities for the local people. Justin Hunter of J. Hunter Fiji Pearls, Assael’s supplier of natural color Fiji Pearls describes it as a “blue economy,” with the aim of stimulating economic growth without destroying the environment in these coastal communities. Some of the developing countries and remote areas lack things that more highly populated areas have already established, such as liquid waste disposal, recycling processes, and sewage systems. When pearl farms set up in these communities, they bring these necessary quality of life improvements, as well as employment opportunities to the local indigenous population.
As Hunter recently told Elite Traveler, “Today’s environmentally conscious customers want to know we are not wasting anything. They also want to know not just that what they are buying is not having an impact but that it is actually having a positive impact. When you are buying pearls, you feel you are investing in the health of the ocean; you are investing in these pristine places.”
Feature image at top – clockwise from upper left – Tahitian Bubble earrings by Sean Gilson for Assael, Assael Natural Color Cultured Tahitian Pearl strand, Elegance with Attitude campaign photographed by David Benoliel featuring model wearing Tahitian Pearl strand and Tahitian Bubble earrings by Sean Gilson for Assael
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