It’s all around us, this major trend – the green movements that affect the lives of all of us — but jewelry?
I was recently asked if the jewelry I produced was “green”. I do know a bit about pearls, since I took and passed the Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA) course on Pearls, so I gave it some thought and answered that pearls certainly are green, being that they’re natural and must be grown in an environmentally clean atmosphere. While semi-precious colored stones are natural and organic, there is nothing green about the mining, cutting and faceting practices used to obtain them.
In Tucson the first week of February, I made a bee-line to my pearl supplier of choice, Betty Sue King, official Pearl Goddess, and owner of King’s Ransom. Not only is she a lovely, patient person to her customers, she is an expert in this field, and an officer of the Gemological Institute of America.
So, I asked her if pearls were “green.” She smiled her sweet smile and said she had written an article on the subject, “How Green Are Your Pearls?” that had been published in Modern Jeweler, in the January 2009 issue.
In the article, Betty Sue notes that the sound environmental conditions are required for saltwater pearls grown in Australia, Tahiti, Philippines, Japan and New Zealand. This is because the saltwater oysters there will only tolerate clean environments. So these oysters are grown in sheltered bays and lagoons rich with nutrients to keep them healthy. The governments of these countries all monitor conditions because they and the pearl farmers know that “. . . the health of the pearl is an indicator of the environment.”
Did you know that pearls are also grown in the U.S.? Well, freshwater pearls are grown in rivers in Mississippi and Tennessee and growers there consider “monitoring the environment as an essential part of their responsibilities.”
The mussels used to produce freshwater pearls from China, the most common and accessible of all pearls on the market, are more tolerant of conditions they need in order to produce pearls. So these mussels, while fed with organic mixtures, have been over-farmed in inland lakes in China, a government with a more laissez-faire attitude toward freshwater pearl cultivation. The recession has curtailed pearl cultivation so that now overused waterways have time to regenerate.
So, yes, pearls are green and my jewelry incorporating them likewise is “green.” As Betty Sue points out, there are no “blood pearls”!