Are Pearls Eco-Friendly?

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Are pearls eco-friendly? We as vegans, absolutely do not think so. Pearls are extracted from oysters. This means irritants or what is known as ‘nacre’ are added to the oysters after surgically removing their bodies. It takes approximately 12-24 months for the pearl to get formed. The oysters are then cut open and then the pearls are extracted. Let us go on to read more!

Know-how of the process

Oysters are cultivated on farms. These are pearl farms. According to the research studies conducted by PETA, the pearl culturing process is not a very sustainable one for oysters. As already stated in the intro paragraph, while the nacre or irritant material is surgically placed after cutting open oysters, the process causes a lot of stress. These are eco-systems that also feel pain and therefore do have a central nervous system. Henceforth, we will have a more technical understanding of how freshwater pearls are actually being cultured via pearl farms. We will then move on to understanding how saltwater pearl culturing is being carried out. 

Freshwater pearl culture:

Freshwater pearls are cultured while you place irritants across the mantle tissue of oysters. As you must be aware off, the mantle tissue is a very sensitive area for the oysters. Hence, the procedure can be a very tedious and painful one for these living organisms, after all. 

Saltwater pearl culturing

This is how saltwater pearl culturing is done. The oyster farmer places the mollusk tissues of another oyster. In fact, 50% of oysters that are bred for saltwater pearl culturing do not survive the process. 

Also, put in cages

Pearl farmers drop suspended cages inside water. The oysters are then hooked to these cages. This is done so that they can clean the shells and they will be in a position to maneuver them around to other waters. The process involves the pearl culturing cages, going in and out of water. The oysters can be under tremendous stress or pressure, while this goes on. The oysters are also put under drastic water temperature changes, therefore challenging their survival inside the sea or river. 

Do oysters suffer in the process?

Some marine scientists typically claim that oysters are typical of mushrooms or plant-based algae that do not have a central nervous system. Hence oysters do not suffer pain the way animals or other sea creatures do. However, there is no evidence to testify to these claims. 

Oysters release this nacre or irritants in response to foreign objects or intruders entering their systems. The WBCs are released as a part of an autoimmune reaction. The process releases pearl-like secretions. While the process takes place naturally, the oysters may not face stress or trauma. However, when their bodies are ripped open to place the irritants inside, and then are removed later their bodies can feel pain and mental trauma too. 

Cleaning the shells

Some pearl farms do adopt ethical guidelines to clean the shells of the oyster pearls. This is carried out by moving the oysters to shallow waters. And this way, these gentle sea animals interact with other sea creatures like sea gulls or fishes. The fishes then swallow the irritants or the parasites present on the outer shells of oysters. The process can naturally have their shells cleaned.

Why should oysters be protected after all?- Concluding segment

Oysters must be protected from human invaders as these are species that typically enrich marine ecosystems. These creatures are instrumental in cleansing gallons of seawater naturally by removing heavy metallic particles including nitrogen oxides from the sea or deep river water. Therefore, the waters are cleaned for other sea animals or ecosystems to thrive on. Henceforth, we vegans will not wear pearl jewelry. You can go in for jute jewel sets or jewelry made from terracotta or paper mesh instead. 

Blog ideas inspired from Sustainable Jewelry: Are Pearls Really Eco-Friendly Gems? - TPS Blog (

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