Coral harvests in troubled waters

As natural supplies become increasingly scarce, jewellers such as Tiffany & Co. are decreasing and ceasing the use of deepwater corals.

May 14, 2018 | By Shirley Wang

A heartwarming trend in the luxury industry is the keen interest and priority of practising environmentally sustainable and ethical sourcing methods. This keen sense of environmental awareness fuels changes especially in the jewelry industry—from increased use of traceable gemstones to the rising popularity of recycled and ethically-mined gold metals.

Facing a shortage of deepwater corals, ethical issues are raised of its use in jewellery.

Scarcity creates ethical issues, resulting in some jewellers turning to existing stocks of coral rather than newly harvested supplies. Some ateliers are taking a further step, such as Tiffany & Co, with plans to cease the use of coral completely. Mikimoto however takes a centre stance in this dilemma, rendering its exquisite Coral designs in precious metal with diamonds to reduce the emphasis on coral.

Mikimoto’s ‘Praise to Nature’ necklace in 18ct white gold, white South Sea cultured pearls, opals and spinels.

Lang Assael, President of House of Assael, says that the warming of the planet’s oceans is adversely affecting sponge and reef coral, which grow closer to the surface. Being mindful of the impact, Assel calls for the need for regulations to limit coral harvesting.

“Over-harvesting can result in decline or extinction of a species that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to find its perfect conditions to thrive.”

Beyond mines and rocks, we have obtained precious treasures from nature’s expansive water bodies for centuries. The vibrant types of precious harvests we have obtained from these waters is almost endless: Pearls, secreted by shell creatures for protection, the glorious coral that ranges from fossil coral to rich red corallium rubrum, and the iridescent rainbow beauty of ammolite from the fossilised shells of ammonites. Amber, a relatively less expensive material that is usually found as the fossilised resin of ancient trees, can be found in the ocean. Similarly, Jet, an organic gemstone from ancient trees, can also found in coastal cliffs as a compressed layer of the decayed wood.

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Tourbillon watch that features a beautiful Mother-of-Pearl dial.

One of the most popular sea gems in the luxury industry will be the Mother-of-pearl, commonly sought after for its humble sheen in various pieces from interior design to haute couture. Usually harvested in natural translucent shade of white or grey, it is also highly prized for watch dials in haute horlogerie.

Although coral has been generally been much under the radar in comparison to its fellow counterparts of diamonds and gold, the repercussions of its harvesting process should certainly not be neglected as the luxury industry works towards more responsible and ethical sourcing habits.

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