Pearls have been a symbol of wealth and power for centuries, yet the way they’re fished and farmed is not sustainable. But now there could be a better future for this billion dollar industry.

Surprisingly, sustainable pearls aren’t significantly more expensive than regular pearls, which is great news. Price can often be a barrier to more sustainable products and services, so this means there’s real potential to shift the pearl market to one that is wholly sustainable.

Pearls are recorded being used for decorative purposes as far as the 4th millennium BC Egypt. But it was during Alexander the Great’s reign that pearls became a symbol of wealth and power and their demand has continued to increase ever since.

Sustainable Pearls from Andy Bardon on Vimeo.

Sourcing wild oysters was, and is, far from ecologically sustainable in a number of areas. Due to poor methods of farming and over-farming, we have seen the demise of the natural pearl trade.

Fortunately Laurent Cartier is working to change this. With a surname like that, the Sustainable Pearls co-founder’s interest in jewellery could seem obvious, yet Mr Cartier is not related to the international jeweler; he’s actually a PhD candidate in environmental sciences at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Based on five sustainability principles for marine cultured pearls, Sustainable Pearls is introducing a whole new method of breeding, growing and farming oysters, in turn transforming the oyster industry.

Sustainable Pearls is working in collaboration with pearl farmers to ensure positive environmental and socio-economic benefit to the future of pearl farming. This is done through research projects that examine how marine cultured pearl supply chains and consumers could go further to support the organisations’ principles. 

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