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The shining side of the jewelry industry

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

When you think of shiny, expensive pieces of jewelry, I doubt that sustainability comes to mind. Considering the amount of pollution that jewelry production contributes and the ethical concerns surrounding its collection, it's no wonder you may write off the entire industry as bad for the planet. Surprisingly, there is one sustainable gemstone—pearls.

A pearl in an oyster surrounded by glitter

To understand their sustainability, you first need to know how pearls are formed. Pearls are created by oysters as a response to foreign intrusions. As the offending substance enters the oyster, it irritates the oyster, which, in response, forms a shell around the irritant. The process is repeated until the thin layers of the shell become a singular pearl.

Critically, this process is affected by the oyster's environment. For oysters to create high-quality pearls, they require pristine water. To achieve this, pearl farmers use clean water, avoid/reduce waste, and recycle to maximize their profits. In this rare instance, businesses have to directly protect the environment to make money.

Another meaningful aspect of pearl sustainability is that they can be recycled. Since pearls are created naturally, unlike other gemstones like diamonds, which are mined, the place where they're made—oysters—can be reused for future pearl cycles.

The jewelry industry is oftentimes unsustainable, destructive, and unhealthy for the planet (something you can learn more about next week in the second part of this article). The flashy necklaces, bracelets, and rings we wear grow dull when you realize how badly they hurt the planet. At the same time, pearls stand out as a shining example of what jewelry can—and should—be.

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