CIBJO-The World Jewellery Federation's Special Pearl Commission Report
This blog will report on Australia.
Pearls have ridden a roller coaster of global events punctuated by Covid and climate change.
In February of 2020, all seemed to be going as usual in the Australian pearling industry, but by March, borders had been closed to the outside world and also by territories within Australia. 14 day quarantines between territories meant that pearling ships and technicians could not travel between territories on the west and north coasts of Australia, In March the Hong Kong Jewellery Show was also cancelled which meant a lack of opportunity to show and sell pearl inventory. This also meant the lack of world wide inventory available for jewelers to use South Sea Pearls.
Several attempts had been made with online auctions. They were not well supported at first, but have become increasingly more productive as buyers accepted the concept of buying pearls through images online.
In terms of climate change, the sea temperatures have increased dramatically. Temperature is a major factor in viral and bacterial changes in sea life. Humans have caused frequent sea heatwaves, ocean acidification and lack of oxygen in sea waters. These are all challenges to nacre growth for pearl development and result in slower growth and smaller pearls.
The east coast of Australia has tried to cultivate saltwater Akoya pearl farms for over 25 years, but the recent floods have introduced much too much freshwater into the sea and almost completely destroyed this effort.
These hardships have had the effect of instilling much creativity and cross aqua cultural work to develop new techniques. Pearl farms act as oyster reefs and come with the same benefits of habitat, economic growth and jobs.
The substantial pearl market in Australia is not likely to increase in the near future, driving up the value and rarity of the South Sea Pearls.
The pearling industry is a custodian of a sustainable function of nature in responsibly managing marine life. The more this is known, the more important this industry will be seen as a source of maintaining a healthy habitat for all of us.