Monday, 15 September 2014
Jewelmer: Sustainable pearl farming at its finest

Pearl producer and fine jewellery maker Jewelmer has been committed to the culture of the golden South Sea pearl ? the rare and coveted jewel from southern Palawan, Philippines ? for over three generations. Throughout its operations, the company successfully adheres to sustainable environmental pearl farming practices that promote marine diversity while reducing any impact on the surrounding seas, Jacques Christophe Branellec, executive vice president of Jewelmer International Corporation, said at a pearl forum in Hong Kong in June.

It is through environment-friendly practices that preserve the delicate balance of nature and human interaction where the golden-lipped Pinctada maxima oyster can thrive and create its precious pearls, Branellec said, adding that from its inception, sustainable practices have always been at the heart of Jewelmer?s business.

Jewelmer believes that there is a direct correlation between man?s respect for nature, for each other and the quality of its pearl harvest, he continued. ?We see the effects of global warming every day in the farm so we can quantify the damage done to the Palawan Seas. By standing as stewards of Mother Nature, by working in harmony with her and by sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire more people to join the cause and ?buy into? sustainability, and in the end, hopefully adapt this mindset to their everyday lives,? Branellec said. ?Jewelmer?s philosophy stems from the fact that the pearl is not only the indicator of the health of the environment, but it is also the reward for acting in a responsible and sustainable way as citizens of planet earth.?

Resource management

Unfortunately, like most industries dependent on natural resources, pearl farming has its limitations with the major environmental challenges it continues to face. Rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and increasing super typhoons in the region are just a few calamities affecting the Philippine seas and the marine life that dwell in it. While the reversal of these effects of global warming is a feat for humankind, Jewelmer has found a way to slow down these effects, and in some instances, even reverse them within its concession, said Branellec.

As a pearl producer, Jewelmer has dedicated itself to protecting what it could in its environment, and to begin the healing from this point. All pearl concessions are no-take zones and are sanctuaries for marine life, protecting and allowing for corals to flourish and
fish to reproduce within the boundaries of the pearl farm and hopefully spread toward other parts of the Palawan seas. Jewelmer?s stewardship extends to the entire pearl farming process, Branellec said. The pearl specialist developed its own hatchery in order to breed its own oysters and not take parent stock from the wild. The pearl farm is also a self-sustaining unit ? taking nothing from the ocean but rather protecting it. Even pearl farmers adapt their lifestyles so they do not disturb or disrupt normal patterns and rhythms in Palawan?s waters, he added.

Moreover, Jewelmer?s laboratories are powered using solar energy and the company has been experimenting in the use of biofuel for its boats that go out to sea to tend to the oysters. Year-long recycling and filtering of both solid waste and water is highly encouraged and strictly implemented. In addition, every new employee in the company?s head office in Manila is invited to visit the pearl farm in order to gain an intimate understanding of Jewelmer?s sustainable operations.

From these and other practices, the pearls are allowed to slowly grow in an environment where marine bio-diversity flourishes ? of thriving coral beds and seas teeming with life, Branellec said.

Transformative education

Education and increasing awareness are other concrete actions that Jewelmer takes in the face of global warming. The company makes it a point to educate as many people that it can reach, radiating outward from its employees all the way to its clients, and anyone who would listen about the effects of global warming to the seas, Branellec said.

With this in mind, Jewelmer established the Save the Palawan Seas Foundation, Inc (SPSF) in 2005 to educate and train neighbouring communities in Palawan about their environment as well as to introduce alternative sustainable livelihood projects to them. Currently, SPSF has successfully taught residents handicraft making and farming of seaweed, sea cucumber, organic vegetable and organic free-range chicken, as well as cashew production. Furthermore, the pearl farms, together with the foundation, host medical missions, create environmental education programmes for local schools and even sponsor the education of local children ? all the while keeping the beneficial impact for the community in mind.

By constantly raising awareness and developing more and more improved sustainable practices, Jewelmer continues to be an exemplary model for how businesses can profitably thrive while protecting the environment and improving the lives of its countrymen, Branellec said.

Perfect gems

Lustrous South Sea pearls are the centrepieces of the celebrated Jewelmer Joaillerie brand, which showcases the distinctive style and creative harmony of French design and Asian sensibilities. According to the pearl specialist, it takes 323 steps and up to five years to produce the perfect pearl. In every harvest, roughly 30 percent of the pearls are of dark champagne to gold in colour, underscoring their rarity and value, Branellec said.

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