Pearls as a beacon of sustainability

Sea pearls are defined as a highly prized gemstone that is a symbol of beauty and purity. It is no longer the case that only noble people can afford to wear pearl jewelry. Today, pearl jewelry is proudly worn by people across genders and generations. But did you know how pearls are obtained and what effect this process can have on the environment?

The benefit of pearl farms

Due to the high popularity of pearl jewelry today and its availability, the impact of pearl farms can have both positive and negative environmental benefits. Sustainable farming of sea pearls does not cause much damage to the ecosystem and, on the contrary, can be very beneficial. In contrast, the farming of freshwater pearls, which are 99% imported from China, can be devastating for the environment and pearls.

Organic pearl farms

Organic pearl farming involves sustainable farming techniques. One of them is the breeding of original mollusk species, which will reduce the negative impact of the introduction of exotic species on the surrounding environment. Oysters should be grown in a pristine marine ecosystem and therefore farmers have an imperative need to protect the environment. There is a unique synergy between the quality of pearls and the health of the oceans, with profits and the protection of the natural ecosystem closely linked.

While pearl oysters need a certain degree of water purity, they can contribute to its purification and quality improvement. Each pearl shell can filter up to 104 liters of water every 24 hours, making it a "natural water filter". Pearls therefore have the potential to become a sustainable luxury product and a great vehicle for reaching out and educating consumers.

Coral reefs

Many pearl farms are located in the Pacific Ocean, which boasts the greatest marine biodiversity on the planet. For example, in the areas of Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Mexia, etc. These areas are also affected by coral reef degradation. Coral reefs play an important role in the life cycle of pearl oysters: they are a breeding substrate, a source of nutrients for oysters, and home to many fish and other organisms that play an important role in keeping oysters healthy. In French Polynesia, for example, many smaller farms let reef fish remove biological insects from pearl oysters. This practice is based on healthy fish populations often found on reef ecosystems.

Ecological load indicator

China is the largest producer of cultured pearls in the world. Chinese cultured pearls have long been associated with mass production, low value and relatively low quality. The production of pearls is still growing, the rapid economic development is intensifying, which is increasingly affecting the areas where pearls are produced. On the basis of this, there is a threat of huge problems - mainly of an ecological nature.

The vast majority of Chinese freshwater mussels are grown in old rice paddies that have been dredged and artificially flooded to become artificial lakes. The mussels remain in these ponds for five years before being harvested for their pearls. These ponds are enriched with manure or animal waste to produce as much algae as possible (a source of phytoplankton for the lampreys). Carp are added to the ponds to filter the water to improve the quality of food for the clams. In a symbiotic relationship with freshwater mussels and carp, they feed on phytoplankton and prevent possible eutrophication and algal blooms.

However, these steps can lead to nutrient depletion of soil and water. In one case in 2007, pearl farming was temporarily banned in Hubei province due to concerns over the amount of manure and fertilizers used in pearl production. In the Chuqi region, the birthplace of freshwater pearl farming, pollution has forced many farmers to either stop pearl production or move it to less polluted waters in central China. The same principle of artificial flooding and soil pollution takes place in several places at once until the farms are no longer fertile and profitable.

Due to the increasing industrialization of China's coastal areas and the pollution of the surrounding waters, the cultivation of Chinese sea pearls is on the decline. Chinese farmers are slowly starting to move to new and clean waters in the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, where they are establishing new farms.


The difference between traditional and modern pearl farming illuminates the importance of ecological pearl farming. On a planet threatened by uncontrolled climate change, the jewelry industry could become recognized as a beacon of sustainability and positive environmentalism. Jewelers and customers are also responsible for the background of the jewels, who have a choice. Give preference to beauty that does not hide darkness.

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