Sustainable Indulgence: Jewelmer’s Eco Pearl Farming

Photo by Harvey Tapan - Golden South Sea Pearl-resize

By Amanda Harvey

Jewelry has been a common thread connecting culture and fashion for as long as history has been recorded.

Many know the dirty secrets behind the “blood diamond” industry, but admirers can rest assured knowing sustainable pearl farming follows a strict standard. Culturing South Sea pearls is an industry that has been following green standards long before the rise of corporate environmentalism. The golden South Sea pearl, also known as the “Queen of Gems,” has to be grown in a clean environment with unpolluted water and controlled climate factors. This is why pearl farms remain some of the most pristine nurseries in the world.

017-Vanessa Matsunaga wearing the Zen Collection in the Air segment (Daniel Tan)Established in 1979 by French pearl farmer Jacques Christophe Branellec and Filipino entrepreneur Manuel Cojuangco, Jewelmer Joaillerie is the leader in environmentally friendly South Sea pearl farming.

The tropical waters of the Palawan Islands in the Philippines house the gold-lipped Pinctada maxima oyster, the largest pearl-bearing oyster in the world. Jewelmer’s pearl farm has been declared a no-take zone, meaning the coral beds are not harmed. This also allows the same coral beds an opportunity to heal from previous human destruction. Marine life is also able to come and go freely from the coral beds. This rich diversity of marine life coupled with modern pearl farming technology has led to a unique partnership between man and nature to create the rare golden South Sea pearl.

“Jewelmer is committed to preserving the ecosystem for not only the present, but for future generations to come. Pearl farming, when done correctly, contributes to a healthy ecosystem between man and nature,” said Joseph Meli, Jewelmer’s operations director for the Americas. There are 323 precise steps required in the creation of one pearl. The oyster is bred and grown for two to three years before being grafted, followed by another two or three years of careful monitoring and nurturing while the pearl is grown before it can be harvested. During this time, the oysters are placed in floating baskets underwater, which are regularly turned and cleaned to ensure optimum health.

Jewelmer senior vice president and creative director Gaelle Branellec, Jewelmer deputy CEO Jacques Christophe Branellec.
Jewelmer senior vice president and creative director Gaelle Branellec, Jewelmer deputy CEO Jacques Christophe Branellec.

To give back to the community within which their pristine pearl farm is located, Jewelmer created the Save the Palawan Seas Foundation (SPSF) nonprofit in 2006. SPSF aims to spread conservation education in order to ignite action and inspire change. SPSF also teaches sustainable livelihood practices like beekeeping, organic farming and tree planting, enabling natives to make a living while preserving natural resources.

“We are in a joint venture with Mother Nature and we are the minority shareholder, with at most 49 percent,” said Jacques Christophe Branellec, deputy CEO. Jewelmer strives to create a cleaner marine ecosystem while producing beautiful pearl jewelry that is indeed a sustainable indulgence.

Claudia Kretchmer, President of Steven Kretchmer Jewelry in Scottsdale, partners with Jewelmer “because the morals and standards of their company mirror what we believe in.” She continued, “Jewelmer strives for beautiful pieces but also cares about how they are made and the people involved. You can always tell when something has been created with care.”

For more information on Jewelmer, visit For more on the Save Palawan Seas Foundation and its conservation efforts, visit Local retailer Steven Kretchmer Fine Jewelry also carries the brand in stores.

Golden South Sea Pearl photo by Harvey Tapan.

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