As I get closer to launching my first pearl jewellery collection, a few people have asked me why I chose to use vintage pearls instead of sourcing new ones, so let’s talk about it.
From the beginning, I deliberately chose to use vintage pearls, which presents a unique challenge, as the amount of pieces I can make depends on the availability of vintage pearls I can source. This decision means that scaling up production becomes more difficult. While some may view this as a drawback, I am genuinely excited about trying to incorporate vintage pearls in new designs. However, since this endeavour is an experiment, only time will tell whether I've made the right call.
So, why choose vintage pearls? Here are 4 reasons why:
1. For happy molluscs
In the past, molluscs would die during the process of pearl collection. Thankfully, modern-day pearl farming has become more humane. While it is true that some molluscs may experience heightened stress and not survive the farming process, cultured pearl production is now designed to keep the majority of molluscs alive and healthy throughout the process.
Although pearl farming has advanced to the point where molluscs are less likely to be harmed, using pearls already in the market takes the well-being of these creatures out of the equation entirely, which helps put my mind at ease.
Bonus info for vegans:
After much consideration and experimentation, I've chosen to use silk to string my pearl necklaces. If using silk doesn't align with your ethics, but you still want to wear a pearl necklace, please reach out, and I can string your necklace using polyester thread as a silk substitute.
2. For the environment (and because I’m lazy)
Pearl farming can negatively impact water quality, cause habitat alteration, harm the genetic diversity and health of native mollusc species, and lead to pesticides and antifouling agents having adverse effects on the surrounding environment.
The environmental impact of pearl farming varies depending on the farming methods employed, the location of the farms, and the regulatory frameworks in place. Some pearl farms work hard to maintain ecological balance, conserve wild populations and preserve aquatic habitats. The environmental impacts of different pearl farms vary greatly, and it is almost impossible to make an informed decision about pearl selection without extensive research.
I admit I’m taking the lazy route by sourcing vintage pearls to avoid another ethical decision. The pearls I select are still perfect for wear, and by re-circulating them in the market, I’m also reducing the environmental impact of making jewellery.
3. To preserve pre-existing pearls
As well as being better for the environment, using pre-existing pearls is better for the pearls. Once plucked from their mollusc cocoon, pearls are susceptible to degradation. Although keeping many things airtight and away from skin contact is part of standard preservation, pearls can dry out and deteriorate faster without skin contact and access to air. To learn more, I have a blog post dedicated to looking after your pearl jewellery.
4. To continue the story
It’s been fun learning more about the pearls I’ve collected. Vintage pieces are unique because they hold the stories of the people that made them and wore them before, and so far, I’ve collected pearls from the Victorian Era, all the way up to the 1990s. I love to imagine the many lives that these vintage pearls have lived, and I am honoured to be able to give them another life.
In imagining the past lives of the pearls I source, I’ve also been digging further into history, taking inspiration from royalties and deities who wore pearls and learning more about the cultural significance of wearing these precious gems. These stories have influenced the designs I have come up with, and I can’t wait to share more with you soon.