Hey modern vegans, it’s Margaret. And today I want to talk with you about pearls. Are pearls vegan, and why should you even care? So I think we all pretty much know that pearls come from oysters. It’s one of those things you learn when you’re quite young and it’s one of the first things I thought about when I became vegan, because I love pearls and if you can’t tell my room is white, I’m wearing pearls right now – these were a gift from my sister that I very much treasure. And I have loved pearls for as long as i can remember. They were actually my first piece of jewelry – I remember buying pearl earrings well actually they were given to me as a gift, I received pearl clip-on earrings when I was like eight years old, and I absolutely adored them. I wore them so much that they actually injured my ears permanently and I can still feel like a little bumps in my ears where I got irritated by these pearl earrings when I was a kid. So I was willing to go through pain in order to use pearls – so you can tell that I’m pretty much a committed pearl user at this point. It may be because my name is Margaret, which means pearl – it’s actually from Sanskrit but it’s used in Greek as well – the idea of pearls – pearls have been something that humanity has treasured for as long as we can remember. It’s a very ancient obsession, the idea used to be that the moon created these these beautiful pearls, and fables how they were made. But we’ve always known that they came from oysters. And pearl diving has always been a dangerous activity. Nnowadays we tend to make pearls artificially. I’m sure all of you know that most pearls are made by inserting small beads usually made from pearl oyster shells. And we insert those into the oysters and that’s how we make pearls. But most of us probably haven’t thought of it very carefully. In order to produce pearls, what is needed is obviously a small irritant that is usually bead. And it’s either made of a form of plastic or from an oyster shell, and those are placed in pearls, usually in the sexual organs because that’s the most uncomfortable. It seems to produce the best pearls. We put them in the gonads of these oysters and that’s how pearls are created we put them in there and then the nacre is a solution the pearls come up with in order to prevent the irritation of this small irritant from from harming them. And so they they cover that foreign object in nacre and eventually a pearl is produced. Interestingly, any mollusk can produce a pearl. So even a snail could make a pearl, but the snail would produce a pearl that was not iridescent. So whereas pearls have this lovely luminescence and kind of like shimmering quality to them, a pearl that came from say a snail would not have that quality, but could still produce a pearl. Interestingly, I haven’t really seen any videos on YouTube pertaining to the question of pearls and veganism. I did come across a very interesting one from a young woman who was visiting I believe the Isle of Wight, with one of her friends and they have pearls there. And she decided to stay behind from the tour because she was vegan and she has a lovely little discussion about why it bothered her. And I’ll put a link to that in the description box below. Pearls have been prized for a long time. One of my favorite stories by John Steinbeck was The Pearl, and remember reading that in high school. I absolutely loved it and it did a little bit to explain the danger and everything involved in pearl fishing. And even today there are still people involved in traditional pearl fishing, which involves on diving for these pearls. And it is incredibly dangerous and it’s still done with some Tahitian pearls, as well. Although it’s a shallower form of diving nowadays. But it still can be dangerous for the people that are getting the pearls. Although production doesn’t involve the degree of danger to human beings that it once did, it still is very damaging to the oysters themselves. And I realize that some of you may not really care about oysters. Obviously they have nerve ganglia, they don’t have a fully developed human brain that helps them to sense danger or pain. But we do notice obviously, when you go to interfere with an oyster, it closes its shell. All bivalves have that instinct, will response to a threat. And something that tells us, you know, “back off.” It’s definitely a message from that organism that we should not interfere. What happens is after an irritant is placed in the gonads of an oyster, and the shells are returned back to the ocean. And this is what happens at pearl farms. Sometimes they’ll drill a small hole through the oyster shell and return it to its ocean bed. And it will stay there for anywhere from a few months to a couple of years while the pearl forms. And then the pearl is removed and it may be removed and then the oyster return to to produce another pearl, but in about two-thirds of cases, the oyster itself is kind of even – on the FAO describe it is almost like a melting procedure where they take and they destroy the flesh of the oyster in order to get the this pearl out perfectly. And then the remainder is discarded. Profits are obviously higher if the shell can be retained, the oyster can be preserved and so it’s in the interest of the oyster farmer to try and preserve as many oysters as possible. But even then that’s not very easy to do, because oysters are relatively susceptible to disease, and so many of them, after they’ve had the pearl removed, die anyway, because they catch some sort of disease from the ocean waters. And it’s very easy. If there’s any bacteria of any sort in the oyster you can imagine, because this is kind of a major surgery, where the pearl is removed from the oyster and it can cause trauma to the oyster, and cause the oyster to die. So I would definitely say that at least about two-thirds of oysters are destroyed every time this process takes place. So an oyster has maybe a one-in-three chance of surviving the first oyster pearl implantation, and then after that it’s odds get increasingly smaller. So it’s not a particularly positive experience for the oyster! Is pearl production particularly violent in comparison to other forms of animal agriculture? I would say no. I don’t think that it’s nearly as bad as many other forms of animal agriculture, but it does result in a very high death rate and it’s completely unnecessary. And I think that’s the point more than anything else. I think sometimes people tend to place an inordinate amount of value on objects that are not necessary, and this is one of them. I think jewelry in general tends to be a little bit unnecessary. And this is partly because I’m not a jewelry person, if you’ve noticed. I wear more jewelry on this show that I probably ever do in real life. I’ve got my watch and sometimes earrings and that’s about it. It’s not really my obsession. I do love pearls. I think they’re very lovely and I’ll frequently wear my little pearl earrings for special occasions. I plan on keeping them, but I probably will well i can say I definitely will never purchase genuine pearls again. Although I will buy artificial pearls. And that’s what I want to really talk about here. And why I think artificial pearls are great. Many of you have no doubt heard of conflict diamonds, or blood diamonds and we know that diamonds fund a great deal of war around the world. And it’s not just diamonds, emeralds are the same way. There’s a great deal of conflict funding that is done through emeralds, and it pretty much happens that way with every precious stone around the world. There are exceptions, but most precious stones are involved in this kind of violence, and it makes sense. Because if you think about it, the value that we place on items like diamonds and pearls and everything else is somewhat disproportionate to their value as goods. And you can probably remember that from the very first economics class that you ever took. What makes diamonds valuable is their scarcity, and not any special qualities that they have. Although they can be useful for industry and things like that, they’re not terribly useful just in general they’re not necessary for survival for most of us. And so diamonds and other gems are more of a luxury good and that is the way that we treat them in our society. One of my favorite comments that Coco Chanel ever made was that jewelry is meant to make women feel beautiful it’s not to make them look like they’re wealthy. And I think that’s something that all of us could handle reminding ourselves every once in a while we don’t buy jewelry to fool people into thinking that we’re rich, or to show that we are wealthy. We wear – we should be wearing – it because it complements us, because it’s fun to wear in my opinion. It’s just something that is beautiful that we wear because we like to. And I prefer to wear jewelry in that way. And that’s the way that I’ve chosen to wear jewelry. And for that reason, I have zero problem whatsoever with wearing fake pearls. These pearls that i’m wearing right now, those are real. Those were gifts from my sister, but I had a pearl necklace that I wore for years and eventually wore out. But I wore it for years and it was artificial pearls. People would ask me if it was real and I would say no, because I don’t care. It’s not important to me that they’re real. I just enjoyed them. They were great string-of-pearls. It was one of the first gift that my husband ever gave me and i absolutely loved them. And I didn’t really understand how important genuine articles of jewelry were until I was in junior high, and I was staying with a friend of mine and her parents were very wealthy. But her mother had a pearl necklace and my friends just asked me if I knew if they were real or not. And I tested them with my teeth because I I knew at that point that that’s how you could tell – through the nacre, through that feeling of kind of sandy grittiness whether an item of jewelry was real or not. And these pearls were definitely not real. But they were my her mother’s pride and joy, and her parents were definitely wealthy enough that it was a little bit of a surprise that they were fake. But what was really the surprise was that her mother did not know that they were fake. And so when I told her, the defensiveness was absolutely insane. Like, first she completely denied that they were fake, and was completely convinced that they were real. And then she started to have questions herself. And it created like this conflict that kind of escalated. And I remember as a child just being kind of like – Whoa! Thats that’s a lot of fuss to make over a piece of jewelry! Who cares, you know? It looks really pretty. Who cares if it’s real or not? And yet it became this really big deal. And so, for me it’s just never been like that. I don’t really see it as a big deal. I think Coco Chanel was right: jewelry should make you feel beautiful. And it doesn’t matter if it’s real or not. So I’m giving you permission here! If you want to wear fake pearls, go for it! Because they look beautiful. They look like the real thing. Sometimes they look maybe even too good to be the real thing. And it costs a fraction of the price. And sometimes they cost much more. If you buy actual Chanel jewelry, you can pay a fortune for fake pearls. Because even today, Chanel uses a lot of fake pearls in their product. And I think it’s very smart of them, because why would you use the real thing when the real thing still involves a great deal of waste a great deal of labor? It you know, harms an animal that doesn’t need to be harmed for absolutely no reason. And so that’s why I would say even if you don’t care about oysters at all – you may think the oysters are fine to eat – you may not even believe that they have any feelings. But I still think there’s absolutely no reason to use pearls. That they are natural – but unless you just fetishizing the natural, there’s no reason to buy something that is extraordinarily expensive for absolutely no reason. If you can buy pearl earrings for fifty dollars instead of you know – I don’t know – a couple hundred dollars. Why would you spend more money on something just because it happens to be natural. It’s completely something in your mind, and something that I think we kind of need to get over as a society. It’s the same thing with leather. I was at a store the other day and I saw lovely boots. They were not leather and they were beautiful. I’m still in the process of kind of replacing the leather items in my wardrobe and these were absolutely beautiful. The technology has come so far forward. And I just remember thinking like, why on earth do we still buy leather and stuff when we can make this other alternatives for much less? That’s something I’m going to talk about in a future video, where I will compare the environmental impact of leather. Because I realized that many even vegans and vegetarians believe that that real leather is somehow less harmful to the environment than artificial leather, and that’s unfortunately – well, fortunately – it’s simply not the case. They’re both very artificial products. And the idea that leather is natural is ridiculous, just in the same way of it that the idea that a pearl is natural is ridiculous. When pearls were “natural” it was because we needed to dive hundreds of feet under the ocean and risk the lives of people just to produce these pearls. And how natural is it to be diving hundreds of feet below the surface of the ocean? This is particularly…and sometimes they were diving nearly that deep even before they had the ability to do scuba diving! And then people died often during this process. And how natural is that. Why the fetishizing of this commodity. It’s completely ridiculous. And I hope if I produced any kind of response in this video today, it’s the idea that you don’t need pearls. It’s kind of silly. I’m going to still keep the pearls that I have, but I’m not gonna buy any new ones, because it’s silly! It really is silly! Why do we need to have something that came out of an oyster’s gonads? Why is that more prized? And it makes no sense. I realize that some of you will fetishize the natural no matter what I say. But why do you need an irritant produced from the gonads of an oyster versus a lovely plastic piece of pearl. Like what is the real difference? Why is it so important that it come out of an oyster? I don’t know. It’s just kind of – it’s because it’s expensive and a luxury good. The value that we’ve placed on it is as a Veblen good, if you follow your economics. It’s just kind of a ridiculous, expensive thing that’s expensive because it’s expensive. And it’s ridiculous in my opinion. And I probably will talk more about this the idea of luxuries that are really just expensive because they’re expensive and things that we continue to pursue as a society despite the fact that they really mean nothing to us, and they’re not important to us. Why do we continue to use these things that have no value just because that’s what we’ve traditionally done? I would love to hear what you guys think about this in the comments section below. Are any of you true pearl lovers? I am. I love pearls but I’m not gonna be buying real ones. So I would love to hear from you guys in the comments section below. Let me know what you think. If you like this video, please give it a thumbs up, please subscribe for more videos, and I will see you next time, take care!
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