Category: Science

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

 


How Can I Tell if My Pearls are Real? Ten Quick Tips.

Pearls International only carries genuine cultured freshwater and saltwater pearls, but with so many convincing fakes on the market, how can you tell if the pearls you got somewhere else are the genuine article?

Today recently broke a story about dishonest salesmen in destination spots like Cozumel who duped their customers into purchasing jewelry that wasn’t real. We wanted to take a moment to help educate our customers and readers about how you can avoid scams like this on your vacation and protect yourself from people who don’t have your best interests in mind.

First, always ask for recommendations at your hotel or with a local resident you trust. Most people aren’t going to shop at a jeweler who is hidden down some dark alleyway, but it’s always a good idea to be smart about where you spend your money.

Satisfaction Guarantee SealSecond, ask about their return policy. If you get home to discover that an item you thought was gold instead turned out to be gold plate, at least you’ll know how to get your money back. Pearls International offers a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee with easy returns and exchanges. If you ever purchase the wrong size or color with us, we’ll happily and enthusiastically make it right.

So what if you’ve already made a purchase, and you’re wondering whether you got your money’s worth? Or maybe you’ve inherited some jewelry and you’re thinking of selling it, but don’t want to risk taking it to a pawn shop or a gold-buyer without knowing what it’s worth?


It’s always a good idea to have a jeweler you trust take a look at a new piece to validate its authenticity. At Pearls International, we’ll even give you a free jeweler’s loupe that you can use to look at the metal hallmarks in your jewelry, and they’re also very useful for doing annual checks on prongs to prevent your stones from getting lost!

If you don’t have time to bring your jewelry to an expert, there are several things you can do at home to find out if your pearls are real.

Are my pearls real? Ten things to look for:

Tip: It’s best to start with a clean strand so you can identify small details that might be missed due to a buildup of oils or perfumes on the surface of your pearls. If you need to find out how to clean your pearls, check out this tutorial or use our specially created pearl-safe cleaner.

Pearl Juice
Normal gold and silver cleaners are acidic and can damage your pearls. Use a pearl-friendly cleaner like our Pearl Juice to avoid damaging your pearls. It is best to start with a clean strand when determining if your pearls are the real deal.

[dropcap2]1[/dropcap2]Real pearls are heavier than fake pearls. Imagine you are holding a strand of little pebbles. Would your strand be about the same weight? If not, you might be holding some pearl impostors. The nacre that makes up the layers of a real pearl is very dense, so it will weigh quite a bit more than plastic or resin, two common materials used in many fake pearls. Beware! Some materials such as glass and composite, or ‘shell’ pearls (pearls made from crushed and reconstituted shell) may fool this test.

[dropcap2]2[/dropcap2]If your pearls are heavy, but you still suspect they may be false, chipped or cracking paint is a sure sign that your pearls are fakes. To find it, look carefully between two pearls at a drill hole. If you notice any paint is missing, or if the material from inside the pearl formed a ‘burr’ when the pearl was drilled, your pearls are probably fake. Real pearls will have a drill hole that is quite smooth and doesn’t show any chipping (unless it has been mishandled). If in doubt, ask an expert.

Chipped Pearl Paint

[dropcap2]3[/dropcap2]Real pearls on a strand will never be perfectly matched. Since no two pearls are identical in nature, look for minor variation in color and shape that indicate your pearls are authentic. You may need to look very closely, as high quality strands will be well matched. However, the differences will be there! 

[dropcap2]4[/dropcap2] Size matters. Are your pearls enormous and perfectly spherical? If you paid a comically tiny price for your comically huge pearls, it’s very likely that they are fake. In nature, the longer a pearl remains within an oyster’s shell, the more likely it is to develop imperfections like dents and divots. As a result, pearls of a very large size can be extremely valuable. If your pearls fit this description, it’s likely you have a strand of shell pearls.

[dropcap2]5[/dropcap2] Knots are important! Real pearls will be individually knotted on a silk or microfiber strand. These knots are crucial to the longevity of your pearls. In addition to preventing each pearl from rubbing against its neighbor, the knots also protect against the loss of more than a couple of pearls, should your strand get caught on something and break. Many high-quality fakes will be knotted (such as Mallorca Pearls), but they are easy to identify when you know what to look for.


Tip: If your strand is knotted, take note of the condition of the knots. Are they frayed or discolored? Is there space between the knots and the pearls? If so, you may need to have your strand restrung to prevent breakage. Pearls International offers restringing for $1/knot. Contact us if you’d like to get more information about our jewelry repair services.

Knotted vs. Unknotted Pearls[dropcap2]6[/dropcap2]If your pearls have unusual coloring, they may be fake. While some real pearls are dyed for fashion or to cover up unsightly surface imperfections, good-quality pearls usually stick to colors that appear in nature. Your favorite chartreuse strand might not be the real thing, but feel free to rock that look if it suits you! To learn more about color treatments in pearls, check out this post.

[dropcap2]7[/dropcap2] The temperature of your pearls can give you some hints. Real pearls often feel cool to the touch and will quickly warm to your body’s temperature when worn. Fake pearls will feel much more close to room temperature when you first pick them up.

[dropcap2]8[/dropcap2] Do your pearls look like soldiers in a row? If they are perfectly uniform without any differences or imperfections, it’s very likely that they were manufactured. Real pearls are born in the sea, so they grow up getting rolled around by wind and waves, and as a result, they are never, never perfect. Even ’round’ pearls will show small lumps and bumps and minor imperfections in the nacre. In the pearls of utmost quality, these may not be visible without a loupe, but they are still there. Don’t worry — these are signs that your pearl came from nature!

Pearl Shape

[dropcap2]9[/dropcap2]Genuine pearls appear more ‘glowy’ than ‘shiny’. Look at your pearls under natural light. Real pearls are made from layer upon layer of a material called ‘nacre’. These layers are translucent, and reflect light in such a way that a real pearl appears to have an inner glow that is almost impossible to recreate with artificial methods. If your pearls appear harsh or have an unusual brassy or metallic appearance, they may be fake.

Graduated white akoya pearl necklace
Genuine Akoya Pearls from Pearls International – this exquisite strand shows you a real life example of the ‘glowy’ quality mentioned above. Faux pearls can appear more metallic.

[dropcap2]10[/dropcap2]Last but not least, one of the best methods for determining if your pearls are genuine is the ‘tooth test’. Real pearls have microscopic crystalline structures, not unlike fingerprints. Every pearl has its own structure, but fake pearls do not have this unique characteristic. As a result, if you hold one pearl between your thumb and index finger, then gently rub the pearl on one of your teeth (this only works with real teeth, not veneers or dental implants), you will feel a slight ‘gritty’ texture, as if you are rubbing sand on your tooth. Fake pearls will feel perfectly smooth. Note: Shell pearls, due to the powdered nacre they contain, may feel gritty. Ask your jeweler to identify them for you.

Now you know!

We hope these tips helped you determine if your pearls are real or fake. Still not sure? Drop by and we can take a look for you, or you can send your pearls to us at the address below. Be sure to include your name, phone number and a return address with your package!

Pearls International
3114 So. Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118


Red Algal Bloom

Pearly Whirly Pearl Fact: Never Eat Oysters During These Months

Have you ever heard that you should only eat oysters in months with names that include the letter “R”? Turns out, there’s truth to the tale!

So why should you avoid eating local oysters in the months of May, June, July, and August?

Oysters are filter feeders that eat algae and plankton and are susceptible to a very specific type of algal bloom, or “Red Tide” that can occur during warmer months of the year. A buildup of toxins in the oyster’s tissue as a result of this algae can be harmful to humans.

So what’s an oyster lover to do?

The answer is actually quite simple. While this old rule is a word to the wise for those of us who like to gather our own oysters to eat from rivers and oceans, it doesn’t usually apply to commercially available oysters, which are strictly regulated by the U.S. government. You can rest assured that your favorite oyster joint is probably serving oysters that are algae free and delicious. Slurp!

Medicinal Pearls

flowers-pearls

Pearls, surprisingly enough, aren’t just useful for their good looks! In fact, they have been used in medicines for centuries.

The earliest report of this came from two different sources in the 13th Century. A German monk, Albertus Magnus, stated that pearls could heal mental diseases, love sickness, hemorrahage and dysentery. Alfonso the Learned, the King of Castile believed that pearls as medicine cleaned and purified the blood, and recommended it for fighting depression, or any ailment caused by sadness or timidness.

Pearls dissolving in vinegar
Pearls dissolving in vinegar

In the 17th century, an elixir called ‘Aqua Perlata’ was recommended for restoring strength and combatting fevers. It claimed to be almost strong enough for “resuscitating the dead.” This medicine contained pearls disolved in vinegar (or lemon juice). Once the pearls dissolved, fresh lemon juice was added, then the mixture was decanted into a new container where a touch of strawberry, rose water, cinnamon water, and borage flowers were added. It was sweetened with sugar as needed. It was recommended to cover the top of the glass when drinking Aqua Perlata, so as to not let any of the essence escape.

A substance called Gascoigne’s Powder was used well into the 19th century. The chemical make-up of it changed a few times, but it generally required pearls, crab’s eyes, and coral.

One legend states that placing a pearl in your bellybutton could actually cure stomach disorders.

Mikimoto himself, the man accredited with creating the process for culturing pearls, ate two pearls a day for his health.

But is all this “pearls as medicine” stuff really so crazy? In fact, pearls contain a variety of amino acids, proteins,and calcium. Concoctions such as Aqua Perlata likely worked because of the high content of Vitamin C in the juice and calcium in the pearls. And as for Alfonso the Learned’s theory, we can get behind the idea that pearls can fight sadness – our pearls sure make us happy!

Pearl Powder

Even today, pearls are still used in modern medicine. While it is not common in the Western world, countries such as China, India, and Japan have been using pearls medicinally for many years and continue to do so. Pearls that are lower than gem quality are commonly ground up and used as pharmaceutical calcium powder. “Pearl powder” is very common in Chinese medicine. Ground pearls are used as skin treatment to cure acne, reduce signs of aging, and even the complexion. It is also approved by China’s FDA for internal use, where the benefits are said to be that is builds up your immune system by preventing diseases, promotes tissue regeneration, improves vision, stops convulsions, and calms the mind.

You may want to think twice before gnawing on your strand of pearls, however. Oysters are filter feeders and these tiny animals are nature’s vacuums, cleaning toxins like mercury out of the water as they eat plankton and algae. These toxins may be stored up in their shells and in the proteins that make up the nacre of their pearls. While there may be some benefits to ingesting pearls, they might be outweighed by the ill effects. We’d recommend popping a calcium pill instead and saving the pearls for artful adornment.

Read more!

The Secret Metaphysical and Healing Properties of Pearls

Pearly Whirly Pearl Fact: Pearls as Medicine

Sources:

The book of the pearl: the history, art, science, and industry of the queen of gems
By George Frederick Kunz, Charles Hugh Stevenson

http://fsommers.com/pearls-in-medicine-some-anecdotes/

http://www.karipearls.com/medicine.html

http://www.pearl-guide.com/forum/content.php?r=108-Pearls-and-Medicine

A Gem From an Unlikely Source

Peanut Butter Diamonds
Photo from Steve Jurvetson and Certified Su Via Flickr

We’ve all heard of chocolate diamonds, but what about peanut butter diamonds?! Unlike chocolate diamonds, which are named for their color, peanut butter diamonds are actually created from sticky, delicious peanut butter.

Scientist Dan Frost of the University of Bayreuth, Germany, was conducting some experiments to try and learn more about the inner workings of our Earth’s mantle, which happens to be where diamonds are formed. In doing this, he recreated the high temperature and pressure seen well over 800 miles below Earth’s surface. Previous research exists supporting that many carbon-containing materials (which gives us a very broad spectrum of possibilities) can be used to synthetically create diamonds.

In Frost’s experiment, he placed a small amount of peanut butter in between two diamonds within a chamber, then used heat and pressure conditions similar to those found within the earth’s mantle. These conditions began to arrange the carbon atoms in the peanut butter into a more dense configuration. The scientist then bombarded his experiment with sound waves to imitate seismic waves. The whole process took a considerable amount of time and only yielded a stone smaller than .25 carats, but provided a lot of great scientific knowledge.

Rather than using this method to create jewelry quality diamonds, Frost plans to use this knowledge to learn more about the conditions under which the Earth was formed. Using similar methods, specialized diamonds can also be formed for use in lasers and other precision instruments. Adding different elements to the carbon source used to create synthetic diamonds could create stones that are even more suitable for use in industrial applications such as semiconductors. Cool!

sources:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/60004/scientist-turns-peanut-butter-diamonds

http://www.iflscience.com/environment/scientist-creates-diamonds-peanut-butter

A Pearl That Speaks to You

Tahitian Momento Pearl Ring
Tahitian Momento Pearl Ring

The world we live in is full of mind-blowing technological advances. Every time we turn around, it seems as though there is a new product created to enrich our lives, make every day tasks easier, or keep us connected through the web. The jewelry industry is no exception to this. Designers everywhere are branching away from the traditional and creating new and exciting wearable art that has a lot more to it that what meets the eye. The Apple Watch is one example of this that has become widely popular. In this series, we will explore not only the innovative tech-jewelry on the market today, but also some of the ways modern technology can be used to help you create the piece of your dreams.

Tahitian Momento Pearl necklace and pendant set.
Tahitian Momento Pearl pendant and earring set.

A leading pearl jewelry designer, Galatea, has designed a brand-new line of pearl jewelry that can be used to store your fondest memories. They are chipped with NFC (near-field communication) technology, so that if you hold your pearl up to your smartphone it will show the photos, video, or voice recording that has been imbedded within it – without you even needing to have a special app installed! This very cool technology is a revolutionary way to give someone an emotional keepsake that they can hand down through the generations. Imagine having family photos or videos with a voice recording of your parents, and being able to hand those memories down to your children as well. In the words of Chi Huynh, founder of Galatea, “If you have to find a picture on a computer it is not meaningful. This personalizes it. It is the most meaningful part of someone’s life, and it is right there next to you.”

So how is this possible? They are planning for two types of Momento pearls – one will have the chip drilled into the completed pearl, and the second option (which will be a more limited edition type of jewelry) will have the pearl actually grown around the chip with your chosen memories already inside. This will take approximately 18 months until the finished product is ready. This truly amazing piece of jewelry is set to be available for purchase sometime this year, although as of right now they are still limited and by request only.

http://vimeo.com/114592725

What do you think of this idea? Are technology and jewelry a match made in heaven? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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 (#1)

(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.)

We have finally reached the end of our list and hope you have enjoyed learning with us! Similar to Ocean Acidification, our top offender is an unseen predator. However, it is one in which the cause is still unknown, and treatment is impossible.

Dermo Most Wanted Poster

1) Parasitic Diseases
Causing a higher mortality rate than natural predators and ocean acidification, diseases such as Dermo and MSX come in at a landslide as #1 on our list. Perkinsus marinus, or Dermo, is a single-celled parasite that can multiply by hundreds of thousands. It is contagious and spreads easily because of the way oysters feed. Temperatures higher than 68 degrees Fahrenheit and high salinity can cause it to spread more rapidly. MSX, another parasitic disease, is similar in the way that it spreads and effects oysters, but requires higher levels of salinity to see the same rapid increase. These diseases get all of their nutrients from the oysters they infect. Diseases in oysters are nearly always fatal and kill within a year. Oyster beds can remain infected for 1-2 years before it is safe to repopulate them.

Top Ten Most Wanted, Continued (#2)

(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.)

As this series nears its end, we would like to talk about a huge offender to not just oysters and other mollusks, but everything that lives in the ocean. Not all threats are other animals, or even living organisms at all. Some of the most deadly predators are unseen.

Ocean Acidification Most Wanted Poster

2) Ocean Acidification
Ocean Acidification is a huge concern in the sustainability in our oceans in the not-so-distant future. Our oceans naturally absorb carbon dioxide, and their capacity to contain CO2 is not endless, as once was thought. The more carbon emissions we create (from excessive burning of fossil fuels), the more acidic our oceans are becoming. These increasingly acidic waters have a huge effect on our ecosystems, beginning in areas where water is shallow and slowly spreading outward. Oysters and other mollusks have trouble getting the energy to build up their shells, and many spats expend all their energy and die before given the chance. On the other hand, oyster predators such as crabs have adapted to grow thicker shells to defend against the acidic waters. Starfish have been documented to consume 20% more oysters when the oysters are submitted to acidic waters (as the animals will have thinner, weaker shells and be much smaller than healthy oysters.) With food supply for these predators getting shorter, the food chain in the ecosystems they reside in is becoming more and more off balance.