Ageless Heirlooms

Coral Preservation

Recently we were featured in a blog post by Lee Ohio of etsy.  We were honored to have one of our favorite art nouveau pieces featured there, not initially realizing what the article was about.  To step back a bit, Etsy’s Storque had a highly debated post about coral use in jewelry a month or so ago. The article claimed that coral was ‘too precious to wear’ and then went on to claim that there were no sustainable or regulated means to incorporate coral into jewelry, and thus people should make a pledge to never wear, sell, or buy anything coral.

I appreciated the vigor of the initial article to draw attention to a cause that is worthy of being acknowledged.  I guess for me what struck me as almost insulting was the blatant disregard for those of us in the industry who are aware of the over harvesting of deep sea coral, who avoid purchasing newly harvested, unsustainable and illegal coral, but who have other eco-friendly means of preserving such a natural beauty.  In Ageless Heirlooms’ case, the only coral we would ever sell would be at least 100 years old or older… some of the pieces my most prized and loved.  These should just be shut out in a box and never worn, appreciated, or valued?  According to Temple St. Clair, that is exactly what I should do.

Lee Ohio wrote a letter in response to etsy’s post talking about her studio and how she is able to use coral in a responsible fashion …which was then accompanied by her blog update. Why banish all forms of coral when the problem is not widespread through 100% of coral?  I would ask Temple St. Clair to banish all diamonds, all gold, and all other precious stones as well – since, as much as she may not wish to admit, conflict diamonds find their way into the market, as well as multitudes of other conflict and ethical issues involved with the manufacture of fine jewelry.  We all need to be responsible consumers, but we also need to have an open mind.


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Jennifer November 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Thank you Lauren for continuing the conversation about this issue – and for the shout-out to my posts on Etsy and my own blog. It is indeed an important one!

Mary November 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

This issue is applicable to many areas–ebony and ivory being two other precious natural resources that were used for years, and are now recognized as not being green or politically correct. If pearls hadn’t become a precious gem resource that could be farmed (cultured), we would probably now be saying similar things about pearls.

Still: for centuries these natural (and naturally rare resources and) gems were harvested and used in all sorts of ornamentations and decorations. The world was a different place when these things were harvested and used. I believe it is okay to buy, sell, trade, and wear these pieces that ARE old, and are not the result of modern harvesting and production. I believe that wearing these as antique pieces is a way to acknowledge that they are “pieces of their time”…meaning, a precious commodity which the modern world acknowledges is not appropriate for present-day harvesting….making them even more rare and precious, in a sense.

To lock them away would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. The pieces are certainly touch-points for discussion, are they not? What a great thing….”Yes, I am wearing old coral. This piece was made in the 1800s when it was more plentiful and we hadn’t all yet come to realize the fragility of its ecosphere. I am aware that it is not a good item to purchase new: this is why I own an antique piece, because I wouldn’t dream of buying it new.”

To lock them away would not be green in my book, because I believe in recycling and re-using and recapturing as much of what has been produced (over time) in the world and making proper use of it. Making use of old, antique pieces of jewelry, furniture, clothing, art, etc. is a *green* way for the beautiful craft and art of the past to be honored in the present day.


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