To highlight the sustainability efforts of select pearl producers and discuss how the sustainability story of pearls can be communicated and marketed effectively to consumers, a forum has been held in the pearl trading hub Hong Kong during the June jewellery fair.
The one-day forum was organized by the Sustainable Pearls – a research project co-supported by the Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security at the University of Vermont, the United States and The Tiffany & Co Foundation with a view to examining how the marine cultured pearl supply chain and consumers could further support positive environmental and socio-economic benefits and promote responsible pearl farming.
Speakers at the Hong Kong Sustainable Pearls Forum included representatives of
the world’s leading pearl producers , pearl jewellery retailers,
trade organizations, gem lab and environmental protection organizations
Speakers at the forum included representatives of the world’s leading pearl producers Pasapley in Australia, Robert Wan and Kamoka in French Polynesia, Jewelmer in the Philippines and Cortez Pearls in Mexico; pearl jewellery retailers Mikimoto and Tiffany; trade organizations The World Jewellery Federation (Cibjo) and Responsible Jewellery Council; gem lab Swiss Gemmological Institute (SSEF); and environmental protection organizations International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and The Nature Conservancy.
Promoting sustainability to consumers
In his opening remarks, Cibjo president Dr Gaetano Cavalieri said a cultured pearl can be grown in an economically viable period of time and is an inherently sustainable product. “For an industry to be sustainable, it must fulfill three requirements – economic sustainability, environmental sustainability and stakeholder/community sustainability,” Dr Cavalieri said.
Speakers at the Hong Kong Sustainable Pearls Forum included representatives of the world’s leading pearl producers , pearl jewellery retailers, trade organizations, gem lab and environmental protection organizations
“When a consumer buys an item of pearl jewellery, they should feel that they have invested in our planet’s long-term survival rather than having taken advantage of it,” he added.
According to a US consumer study conducted by Sustainable Pearls, 78 percent of US jewellery consumers surveyed agree that their behaviour can have a positive effect on society by purchasing products sold by socially responsible companies. Sixty six percent of US jewellery consumers say if a fine jewellery product demonstrates that it positively impacts the environment, they would be more interested in purchasing the fine jewellery. The message that US pearl consumers react to strongest is “Pearl farming – when done responsibly – has been shown to have a positive impact on coral reef communities and biodiversity.”
Among the world’s largest pearl producers, James Paspaley in Australia and Robert Wan in French Polynesia highlighted their sustainability efforts on the protection of the biosphere
Protection of the biosphere
The forum has announced the results of a study on the influence of pearl oyster farming on reef fish abundance and diversity in Ahe, French Polynesia. The study was conducted by Dr Laurent Cartier, co-founder of the Sustainable Pearls project, and Dr Kent Carpenter, professor of biological sciences at the Old Dominion University and manager at IUCN.
The results show that in Ahe lagoon, pearl farming changes local habitat but in a positive way. “The presence of pearls farms increases local abundance of reef fishes and doesn’t degrade localized diversity. Pearl farming represents a positive conservation/business model,” Dr Carpenter said at the forum.
He added that more needs to be done to monitor the long-term effects and site-specific effects and to develop pearl farming conservation ethic guidelines.
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