The Ethics of PearlsSachi JacobsonJD 171Materials and Properties
Pearl Origins in Jewelry Pearls were the first gemstones. One reason for this is that a pearls beauty can be seen immediately. It took humans centuries to figure out how to bring out the beauty of faceted stones. The oldest known piece of pearl jewelry dates from 520 BC. (It was found in the tomb of a Persian princess.) Since pearls are found all over the world, they have been prized in an enormous amount of cultures from the Americas to Asia. An example of a Greco-Roman pearl earring
How Pearls FormPearls begin as an irritant in an oyster. This could be a piece ofsand, grit or shell, anything that the oyster feels it needs toprotect itself from. The oyster covers the foreign object withlayers of nacre. Over time, a pearl is formed.Nacre: a hard, iridescent There are infinitely manysubstance that forms the shapes and colors of pearl.inner layer of certain These vary according tomollusk shells, used for where and why the pearl formed, the length of time itmaking buttons, beads, etc.; had to grow, and manymother of pearl. other factors.
The Problems of Relying on Natural Pearls Pearls prior to the early 1900s (when culturing pearls really took off) were unimaginably expensive. It isimportant to remember that not all oysters contain pearls,since pearls in nature are really formed by accident. Even the oysters that do, may produce small or lumpy pearls that are undesirable as gems. Owning a full set of matched sizes and colors could be near priceless! Some factors to account for in the price, was all the labor and wasted oysters involved. Oysters could be fished to nearextinction with little results to show. However, pearls were so valuable that people were willing to risk a near infinite amount of both lives and money on finding them.
Manipulating Nature: the Process of Culturing Pearls One of the largest pearl retailers in It is easy to see why it would be desirable the world, to create pearls, or at least be able to Mikimoto, still guarantee that an oyster was producing a bears his name. pearl. However, it wasnt until around 1900, that success was recorded. Kokichi Mikimoto, a pearl enthusiast from Japan was finally able to create cultured pearls indistinguishable from natural pearls. (Although in todays market, natural pearls are still pricier because they are rarer.) He had researched in depth which irritants the oysters responded best to. (A piece of U.S. Mussel shell.) It would take decades more before his process was completely reliable, but it was an enormous breakthrough!
Pearls can form in many Silver and golddifferent mollusks, quality beads wereis what differentiates them originally used for pearl nuclei Pearls to oysters can be compared to Pearl is ulcers to humans. Junes birthstone Fun FactsAlthough Mikimotos success was by far the greatest, two other KeshiJapanese men of the time, Tokishi pearls haveNishikawa and Tatsuhei Mise also no nucleus discovered and patented key discoveries. Pearls have (and are still) used medicinally. Natural pearls are Mikimoto was reputed to less than 5% of eat two a day! todays market
Facts of Pearls and Related Ethics● Pearls are organic.● They are created by a living creature.● Salt water mollusks Definition of can produce only Vegetarian: once, freshwater up to three times. A person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, esp. for moral, religious, or health reasons.
Further Complications... Although vegetarianism is by no means the onlyreason for avoiding pearls, it can be assumed that most vegetarians care about the suffering of animals including the mollusks who provide pearls. Since pearl is predominantly used for vanity alone, it makes the situation even more morally questionable. (After all, eating meat at least has some value towards your health.) Adding to the complexity of the issue, there is a full range of vegetarianism, from vegans (who avoid all animal and animal by product consumption) to pescatarians (who eat fish.)
Reasons Against PearlsFake pearls are widely available. Cultured:Below, is a fake pearl copy of ● Less than half of theJackie Kennedys necklace. oysters survive the injection of an irritant. ● Oysters are discarded after production Natural: ● Pearl beds are often overfished ● All the human activity can destroy or pollute the bed
Making an Informed Decision No matter what your beliefs on pearls are, it is important to make an informed decision. (The same is true for any similar resource. Ivory, coraland even leather are all great examples.) It is veryeasy to let our desires and clever marketing allow us to turn a blind eye to the effects of our decisions, even something as simple aspurchasing a necklace. The pearl industry is quite extensive and has huge economical and environmental ties. It is essential to understandwhat you are supporting and if this falls in line with your personal beliefs.
Me as an Example I was a vegetarian for a few years out because I feltwrong about contributing to animal suffering. For health reasons Ive expanded my diet to include seafood. Generally speaking, I use animal products only if I feel I will give them sufficient use. Prior to the research that went into this project, I would have been comfortableowning perhaps one small item that incorporated pearls. (Personally, I see a difference between a pair of pearl studs and a whole strand.) However, I was under theassumption that the loss of life was one oyster per pearl. I had no idea that half of the oysters did not survive the insertion process, bringing the average up to more like two oysters per pearl. Having this understanding, really has expanded my views on the matter. While I respecteveryones right to enjoy the beauty of pearls I will pass on it for myself.
Bibliography● http://eretzelana.typepad.com/eretz_elana/2009/07● Www.pearloasis.com● Www.howstuffworks.com● Www.mikimoto.co.uk● Www.gemdiamond.com● Www.ross-simmons.com● Www.peta.org● Www.mastoloni.com● Pearls: A Natural History by Neil Landman