Category: Eco-Friendly

GBR Bleached

The Devastating Change That’s Happening to the Great Barrier Reef

Pictured above is a recent photo showing the devastating effects of coral bleaching on the once bright and beautiful Great Barrier Reef. Always regarded as one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems on Earth, the once thriving coral reef is now feeling the harsh effects of climate change. A phenomenon called ‘bleaching’ is killing off the corals. Bleaching is a process that happens when abnormal environmental conditions (such as a spike in water temperatures) affect the relationship that the corals have with a species of algae called zooxanthellae. Check out the infographic below for more information:

coral infographic

A recent arial survey of the reef shows that around 95% off the ecosystem is affected by bleaching. Of the 520 reefs surveyed, only four showed no damage.

So what does that mean for the Great Barrier Reef? Well, corals can recover from bleaching if the conditions return to normal and the zooxanthellae are able to repopulate the reefs. However, due to the severe nature of the bleaching, it seems unlikely that many will survive. Professor Terry Hughes, a coral reef expert, estimates that about half of them will die off in the next month or so.

For comparison, check out the beautiful photos at this blog – showing the Great Barrier Reef in its former glory.

The beautiful colors once displayed across Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The beautiful colors once displayed across Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Want to make a difference and inspire positive change in our world? Take action. Stopping climate change begins with the choices we make as individuals. So turn off a light when you leave the room, recycle, and make smart choices when it comes to choosing the products you buy. Check out our list of ways you can help stop climate change here for more information.


Sources:

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coral_bleach.html (infographic found here)
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-28/great-barrier-reef-coral-bleaching-95-per-cent-north-section/7279338

How Can YOU Help Stop Climate Change and Save Our Seas?

Melting Ice

Climate change and pollution are real threats that are damaging the world we live in, particularly our oceans. These environmental problems and our own unsustainable practices are creating problems such as sea sparkle (which isn’t as lovely as it sounds) and the devastating bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.

There are lots of things you (as an everyday, average person) can do to help put a stop to global warming, however. There are big moves, like driving an electric or hybrid car, or powering your house with solar energy – but there are also solutions that are attainable by everyone. If we work together, we can all make a difference just by changing small habits in our everyday lives.

Here’s a short list we’ve put together of ways you can help:

  1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! You might be tired of hearing this, but the difference changing just a few of your habits can make is phenomenal! For example, did you know that Americans buy about 25 billion plastic water bottles each year – which requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to manufacture. That’s enough to fuel 100,000 U.S. cars for a year! Imagine how much energy we could save if everyone bought reusable water bottles instead? Consider buying paper products such as paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper from recycled sources. Saving trees means more oxygen in the air and less carbon dioxide, which is a huge contributor to global warming. When shopping for household products, choose items with less packaging and bring your own bags with you when you shop. In the United States alone, we throw away about 100 billion plastic bags a year.
  2. Use energy efficient appliances. Just by switching the lighting in your home to LED lights, you use around 80% less energy – helping the enviroment AND reducing your electric bill! Next time you need to replace one of your home appliances, look for the Energy Star label. They are the most energy efficient models. You can also make a difference by turning things off and unplugging them when you’re done using them. 10% of your energy bill comes from phantom loads. That means wasted energy from your home appliances, cell phone chargers and more being plugged in while they are not in use.
  3. Keep your car well maintained. No matter what kind of vehicle you drive, routine tune-ups and basic maintenance can make a big difference in your fuel economy. So, replace your air filter regularly, keep your tires properly inflated (that really does make a difference!) and stop putting off that tune-up you know your car needs. In addition to this, turn your car off when you’re stuck in traffic. It’s a myth that turning your car on and off uses more fuel than idling! Of course, you can also take advantage of car-pooling, public transit, your trusty bicycle or the shoelace express to save on emissions as well.
  4. Buy local – especially your food! Buying food from local farmers not only supports your local economy, but it helps the environment by reducing the amount of travel your food products have to go through to make it to your plate. Worldwatch Institute estimates that the ingredients for the average American meal travel more than 1,500 miles before they’re finally consumed. Try to purchase organic food whenever possible as well. Run-off from pesticides is a contributor to damaging our ecosystems both on land and aquatic.



Sources:

http://life.gaiam.com/article/climate-change-25-things-you-can-do
https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-you-can-stop-global-warming
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21939044

 


Introducing… Ariki Paua Shell Jewelry!

Ariki Paua Shells

Pearls International is proud to announce we are expanding our inventory of Abalone jewelry to now carry gorgeous, sustainably sourced Paua shell jewelry in Sterling silver!

Our new line, from a New Zealand company called Ariki™, includes amazing pieces hand-inlaid Paua shell that have been carefully selected once personally removed from the local waters by divers. The shells are actually a byproduct of fishing for food – so every part of the Abalone sea snail is used, which we though was super cool, because sustaining our sea life is very important. After all, the ocean makes up 71% of our Earth – so it’s important we take care of it and all the creatures that live there.

After each Abalone cabochon has been cut and set into your pendant or earrings, two layers of clear lacquer are added to protect and extend the life of your jewelry.

Remember, just like with your pearls, Abalone comes from the ocean where it is dark and protected from the sun and daily pollutants such as hair sprays and lotions. Follow these easy steps to keep your Ariki™ jewelry looking new for generations to come:

  • Never expose your jewelry to perfumes, hair sprays, lotion, or other materials containing detergents. With time these may penetrate the lacquer and cause damage to the Paua shell.
  • Don’t wear your jewelry for many hours in the bright sunlight.
  • Remove your jewelry before swimming. Chemicals in the water can damage your shell.
  • Store your Sterling silver jewelry in a jewelry box or other secure storage area when you aren’t wearing it. Believe it or not, exposure to oxygen actually causes silver to tarnish.
  • Clean routinely with a good polishing cloth.

We hope you enjoy our new Ariki™ line as much as we do! Stop by the shop today to see all of the beautiful pieces!

The World’s Most Colorful Pearls

Fiji Pearls in shell

If you read our blog highlighting the truly amazing process used to create black saltwater pearls, you already know why we love these little gems so much. Aside from the obvious, of course – they’re gorgeous!

But did you know that our beloved South Pacific oyster, the Pinctada margaritifera, can produce pearls of an even greater variety of hues than seen in Tahitian and Sea of Cortez pearls? Fiji pearls are said to be the world’s most colorful pearls due to the nutrient rich waters that the oysters thrive in. They are found in black and grey, with overtones of silver, blue green, peacock,  and purple, which are often seen in Tahitian pearls. In addition to these traditional colors, Fiji pearls are also seen in bronze or gold instead of the common darker colors, and overtones can include varying shades of blue or green, pinkish red, and even colors as light as tan or white.


Fiji Pearls
Fiji Pearls in gold, cream, grey, bronze, and bright blues and greens.

Pearl farming in the waters surrounding Fiji is relatively new – it only began in 1998. Today, there are only 4 active pearl farms in that area, so these unique gems are quite hard to come by in the pearl market.

sources:

http://www.seafiji.com/SpecialsFlyers/Fiji’s%20unique%20pearls.pdf

 http://pearlfiji.com/index.html

Sea Sparkle

Sea Sparkle: Pretty, or pretty bad?

You probably aren’t too familiar with Noctiluca Scintillans, the alluring not-quite-algae responsible for the beautiful displays of light in the oceans surrounding Hong Kong. 

This unusual single-celled sea life, also known as “sea sparkle” gives off a bioluminescent glow when agitated, either by the movement of the waves or by a passing ship or fish. The breathtaking light shows are visible in many parts of the world, but become more prevalent in areas where increased nitrogen and phosphorous runoff from agriculture upset the delicate balance of the local ocean ecology.

Sea Sparkle

Noctiluca scintillans is an organism that functions both as a plant and an animal. While the organism in itself is not toxic, it tends to feed on phytoplanktons, and because noctiluca scintillans does not move from place to place, the buildup of excretions from its feeding results in high levels of ammonia in the surrounding water. This can lead to problems with surrounding sea life when heavy blooms of noctiluca scintillans take over large aquatic regions.

Noctiluca Scintillans single celled organism

We’re always impressed at the delicate balancing act our oceans perform to keep our entire globe running properly, and also by how easy it is for a few careless people to throw everything off kilter. Just a bit too much pollution from farms can cause seawater to become too nutrient-rich, leading to an overgrowth of noctiluca scintillans. The high ammonia caused by the overgrowth in turn causes problems with local sea life, problems which move gradually up the food chain until finally, they reach your dinner plate.

So what can you do about it?

Well, first, do your part. Be a responsible citizen of the globe. Recycle. Find ways to get involved. Educate yourself on the issues. Then get out there and make a difference! It takes a whole lot of drops to fill the ocean, and that ocean is depending on us.

UCF Helps Restore Oyster Reefs

UCF Knights Give Back

The University of Central Florida’s volunteer program, Knights Give Back, recently completed their Eighth Annual Day of Service! The program has grown extensively over the years, as more and more UCF students, alumni, teachers, and other volunteers have started lining up for their chance to give back. This year, thousands of volunteers working at more than 20 different volunteer sites across central Florida worked on a variety of projects helping the community and the environment.

Infographic on Knights Give Back throughout the years

We at Pearls International are especially interested in this event because this year, one volunteer activity aims to help our favorite little ocean organisms – that’s right, oysters!

On October 11th, 2014, a multitude of students, teachers, and alumni, led by Dr. Linda Walters of the UCF biology department spent their day helping to restore degraded shorelines and oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon. Volunteers planted and transplanted mangroves and marsh grass, and created oyster restoration mats. These mats were placed in areas where oyster reefs used to exist, helping to restore the population. Oysters are a keystone, or essential, species and are filter-feeders, which means they actually clean the water as they eat, helping to create a healthy ecosystem in the lagoon.

UCF Students creating oyster mats.
UCF Students creating oyster mats to help restore the oyster population.

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#9 and Counting)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

If you read our last blog, you know we have comprised a Most Wanted list for Oyster Offenders. We’re advocates of the life and safety of these little pearl-forming, ocean-cleaning parts of our aquatic ecosystems, and we are here to educate! Follow this series for neat facts about predators that live in our oceans, and more.

Cownose Ray Most Wanted Poster

9) Cownose Rays
Similar to the oyster toadfish, the cownose ray has special teeth for crushing mollusks. While feeding, they crush segments of oyster beds three feet wide and up to a foot deep! They also stir up the sediment around the oyster beds while they swim, which can bury the oysters. As oyster beds provide homes to a whole host of aquatic organisms, these rays set off a chain reaction of damages.  We’re all for the food chain, but we don’t want these around our special pearl oysters, so we give the Cownose Ray a Number Nine (#9) on the Ten Most Wanted List.

Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.  You won’t believe what some oysters go through to deliver their beautiful pearls!

Pearls International’s Top 10 Most Wanted List (#10 and Counting Down!)

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

Oyster Toadfish Most Wanted Poster

We at Pearls International were wondering why it is so difficult to raise oysters – don’t you just put them in clean water and sit around in the sun for a couple years until the pearls are formed?  What is all the fuss about oyster disease and predators?  So, we decided to do a series on oyster threats!  What we found was amazing!

Pearls International will release facts about our Top Ten Oyster Threats, one per week, beginning with the least dangerous and leading up to the Number One (#1) most deadly threat to oysters and our beautiful pearls!  Wait till you see some of these critters!

In case you haven’t noticed, we are pretty crazy about pearls around here. That means we also have a lot of respect for the amazing little animals that make them. This includes several species of oyster, clams, and other mollusks. Of course, not all mollusks can produce a nacreous pearl like you see in the jewelry we sell, but we think they’re all equally important.

Oysters are a “keystone” species, meaning they are very important to the habitats they live in. Oyster beds provide shelter for a variety of marine life such as fry fish seeking shelter, and discarded shells serve as a substrate to facilitate the growth of sea sponges, whip corals, and sea fans. These organisms provide shelter to an even larger variety of marine life.

Oysters are also a food source for many animals, including humans.

They are very beneficial to the environment because of the way they feed: Oysters are filter-feeders. They pull food in through their gills along with gallons of water. Oyster beds essentially act as massive filtration systems, helping to keep the ecosystems they live in clean.

Without further ado, we present…Pearls International’s Top 10 Most Wanted List!

 

Number 10 (#10):   Oyster Toadfish
Meet our first offender, the Oyster Toadfish, above. These ugly looking mugs are known for hiding around oyster beds, staying out of sight until they make their attack. They have rows of sharp teeth designed to be able to crack into the hard shells of mollusks and crustaceans.  Despite their common name, “Oyster Toadfish,” they seem to prefer to prey on crabs, rather than oysters, so we rank them Number 10 on our list.

Stay tuned for more unbelievable oyster threats, leading up to the Number One (#1) enemy of our beloved oysters.  You won’t believe what some oysters go through to deliver their beautiful pearls!

 

Branding Pearls: Is This the First Truly Designer Gem?

Toward the end of 2013, scientists, pearl farmers, and consumers alike started searching for a way to learn more about their pearls and where each one is sourced. If you saw our last blog on this subject, you already know that scientists have discovered how to extract trace amounts of DNA from pearls, in order to determine the species of mollusk that produced it.

On the same track, another way to trace your pearls has arisen – branding. It is becoming possible for pearl farmers to brand their pearls, either with a small silver logo on the nucleus, which can only be viewed under an x-ray, or with an RFID chip. RFID, or radio-frequency identification, is similar to the process in which you would have your pet microchipped so that he or she could be traced back to you if they were to get lost. Each pearl chipped in this way would have a unique identifier linking it to the farm from which it originated.

Branded Pearls From Kamoka Pearl Farm that show their logo when x-rayed.
Branded pearls From Kamoka Pearl Farm show their logo when x-rayed.

Many designer-brand loving consumers may adore this idea, while many others may be asking “why?” The main goal for farmers like Josh Humbert of Kamoka Pearls is to be able to reach out to consumers specifically interested in producing eco-friendly jewelry.

Aside from the prestige of being able to say, with proof, that your pearls were sourced from Perlas Del Mar De Cortez, Kamoka Pearls, or any other high-end marine pearl farm, the main upside to this is emerging process is the ability to learn about the region in which your pearl was formed, and the methods around its creation. It is more satisfying to many consumers to say “this is my strand of black Tahitian pearls. The pearls were produced by Kamoka Pearls, which uses methods of sustainability and environmental farming techniques not seen by many other pearl farms” than it is to simply say “These are my black Tahitian pearls”.

With this emerging technology, consumers have a deeper connection to their pearls because they are able  to see photos of the exact farm where the pearls were produced, without ever having to travel all the way to Tahiti, the Gulf of California, or Japan. With this new step in tech, a pearl retailer will have the ability to educate the consumer even further on the purchase they are about to make. The retailer’s ability to extend this knowledge to the customer can also help to build trust and better relationships with clients. In addition to this, a gemologist or appraiser can give the customer a more accurate representation of value by providing this information. For example, if you were to buy a set of branded pearls, you would still have electronic information about their provenance via x-ray or microchip after they have been handed from generation to generation and their future owners had long forgotten where they came from.

The downsides, however, are numerous (at least for the time being). Both the logo method and the RFID chip are pricey, raising production costs by 2-3 dollars a pearl, something that many pearl farms will not be able to afford if the idea does not catch on with the majority of consumers. While many customers would be interested in hearing this information, there is no guarantee they will also be willing to pay the increased retail price for a branded pearl. Another thing to consider is that this process is nearly impossible for freshwater pearls, which make up the majority of pearls on the market today. Since most freshwater pearls are nucleated with mantle tissue only, rather than a shell bead as with saltwater pearls, there is hard nucleus to attach a brand or RFID chip to. Freshwater pearls already sell for a more commercially affordable rate to the general public than do saltwater pearls. If the majority of marine pearls were to become branded, this price gap would increase. Would this damage the market by causing more consumers to choose the less expensive freshwater pearls, or would sales of saltwater pearls increase as more pearl farm education is spread through branding?

Only time will tell.

source – http://www.jewellerynetasia.com/en-us/editorial/list/-C42-Editorial-Article/WEBONID/466/TYPE/Blog

Pearls on Sand

Pearls are Fun, but We Take Oysters VERY SERIOUSLY!!

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

Pearls International is the best place around if you want to play with pearls, get educated on pearls, find out about YOUR pearls, or just have fun!  Everyone knows that pearls are our favorite pastime and that we have a huge selection of creative pearl pieces that you can admire, touch or try on!

But when it comes to oysters, those amazing little animals who actually make the pearls, Pearls International gets deadly serious!  Because we live and breathe pearls, we know the importance of making sure that our friends, the oysters, stay healthy and happy and keep on making their little gems.  Now, it takes an oyster at least one year to come up with a pearl of any size at all, and two years if you want a nice big one.  Some really large pearls take as long as six years to form!  Actually, a healthy oyster can have a life-span of 8-12 years, but pearls that are grown in polluted water are usually pitted with rough spots and the delicate oysters don’t last long there, either.

Oysters need clean water in order to thrive and make lovely pearls.  As it turns out, oysters are quite fragile and they can’t survive in pollution. When oysters are forced to live in polluted water, they become frail.  Their shells weaken and predators come along, invade those soft shells, and destroy the hard-working mollusks!

Pearls are amazing.  The shells they come from are more amazing still, and the animals who live in the shells and make those gorgeous pearls are the most amazing of all.  Not diamonds, not pearls, but OYSTERS are a girl’s best friend!  Nature at its finest never made a more beautiful finished product.  So we need to keep those vulnerable oysters in clean water.

Here’s how Pearls International is helping:

[dropcap2]1.[/dropcap2]Sustainable Practices
Whether it’s making sure to recycle that soda can or turning off the lights when we leave a room, it’s important to reduce our environmental footprint as much as possible. Around here, we are careful not to put harmful chemicals into the water supply, and we re-use as many materials as possible to help reduce waste products and energy use from mining and transport.

[dropcap2]2.[/dropcap2]Ethical Sourcing
We’re a small company, but we still handle millions of pearls every year. Here at Pearls International, we are very aware of how even a small company like ours could have an effect on the environment if we were to use practices that could negatively affect the environment. That’s why we are constantly working with our vendors to seek out better ways to protect the oysters we love through every step of the supply chain.

[dropcap2]3.[/dropcap2]Responsible Stewardship
Perhaps the most important thing we do here at Pearls International is educate! We are always telling people about the amazing things you can find in the ocean, and why they’re worth saving. We think that if everybody did the same, our oceans would be a whole lot healthier. Toward that end, we are always learning, and always spreading the word about our H20-loving friends.

Here’s how you can help:

There are many things you can do to keep the oceans healthy, from cleaning up after yourself at the beach to using fewer plastic products (remember the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Yuck!).

These are things you can do every day, but if you really want to make a change? Get involved! Contact your local policy-makers to let them know you care about our oceans, and join an organization that is working to protect our most valuable global resource.

With your help, our oceans will be just as beautiful for our children’s children.