Are Pearls Vegan?

Are Pearls Vegan?

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!


  • Chef Vegán says:

    Poor bi valves 🙁 I really have not thought of this one. Thanks for another great video. Maybe we should make a genetically altered goats to produce pearl milk, kind of like the spider silk milk idea 🙂

  • Jen Doe says:

    Fascinating and thought-provoking video, thank you! I've never been a fan of 'real' pearls or Ivory, from the moment I discovered that they come from animals. I made that decision before I went vegan. I wonder how many people who would insist on wearing real pearls would feel if they knew exactly how it is formed! Thanks again for a super video. 🙂

  • whofooadventures says:

    Good information as usual, Margaret. Love your passion!

  • Mad Blender says:

    interesting video…i'm with you,I've never given much weight to whether or not jewelry was real….who cares? Especially if it's destroying bivalves in the process unnecessarily…. I don't wear much jewelry either but when I do it's costume jewelry, which i find just as pretty 🙂 great video!

  • Juice says:

    I very much enjoy visiting this channel. Very educational and positive. You're doing great, my friend.

  • Emy Anderson says:

    I wonder if this is where "knackered" comes from? Interesting video, I also loved pearls so know a ton about the process and it's very sad to me. 💜💜💜💜

  • Yeti Yeti says:

    Excellent video!

  • neøn gravestønes says:

    Very thought-provoking!! I never knew how cruel it was! Pearls and diamonds have always been beautiful and luxurious to me but I've never been fussed to buy or wear them! Despite this, I'll be inheriting a lot of authentic, genuine jewelry in the future that I will cherish forever because of the people it came from 🙂☺

  • Silver Foxy says:

    Great video. You are very captivating. I agree with you about jewelry being just a decoration. I love pearls too! I don't have any real ones, but I have several plastic ones. I love wearing them on a "vintage" kind of day.
    Really, my favorite pieces of jewelry are usually flea market finds. They don't need to be real. just look cool

  • Danetto says:

    ah so sentimentality justifies the killing?

  • Tri 3 says:

    Great video, this is off topic but I just wanted to ask what equipment do you use? Your camera is so good I could even see a piece lint in your hair next to your right eye lol. And no pearls aren't vegan imho.

  • Matt Logan says:

    awesome! i'm on my own vegan journey right now trying to spread love and make it to 80kg!

  • Wondering Spirit says:

    The main issue with ethics is not harming sentient beings. The evidence points to them not being sentient. The closing up is a reaction to stimuli just like plants react to stimuli as well. Some argue that eating oysters and mussels is vegan. I support that because some people struggle being totally plant based.

  • pinkpantheress says:

    Yes the best sentence in the entire video: is it necessary it is completely unnecessary… to cause harm to a living organism for our vanity is not necessary.

  • pinkpantheress says:

    Fortunately for me or for the oysters rather I've never been a fan of pearls more a diamonds kinda gal lol. J/k I hardly every wear jewellery other than the odd ring or a pair of earrings I feel weighed down by it somehow.

  • beautyplayground says:

    You legit have the best and most informative videos! 🙂 I rather buy fake leather then real leather as well! Sometimes it might feel weird or a bit like plastic but then again it's not a dead animal. And like you said you keep the pearls you already have: I keep the real leather purses too 🙂 I spend a lot of money on them and just donating or even selling them won't bring back the money 🙂

  • Fiona says:

    Thank you for your informative video! When it comes to oysters, I am less worried about arguing their sentience. I've seen so many arguments about this online and they never get anywhere! I'm vegan because I'm against the property status of all animals so for me it's unethical to eat or use them (it's also completely unnecessary).

  • YIYI E says:

    I love pearl too…. I have pearl necklace and earrings….. It is great video. Thanks.

  • Running on Empty says:

    Great Video, I have found over the years that people (especially newer vegans)over complicate things so they don't give up something they have loved or they just want to make things easier for themselves. Pearls are a great example of this Honey is another one. I've heard many people argue that Pearls and even eating shellfish are acceptable because of the biology of Shellfish. Veganism is a simple concept which is the Non use and exploitation of Animals if oysters feel pain does not really matter a pearl is an item from an Animal (well a Shellfish) so is not ours to exploit. Non of us are perfect and I bet the majority of Vegans have some sentimental item (that is not Vegan) that they either owned before they were Vegan or was passed to them from a Family member. There are quite a few areas that you could argue are grey areas of Veganism but Pearls are not one of them. As you said I've seen hardly anyone talk about this on You Tube

  • Celesiaeyes says:

    So interesting. Vegan Moon Juice company sells pearl powder to ingest, and many other places do as well. Perhaps like honey, there are more sustainable resources? Wawaza sells Pearl powder and explains the process. I've always been curious about the vegan take. Love your eyeshadow, you look gorgeous, and thanks for your ethical views and information. What do you think about Moon Juice? Love & Light!

  • The Lost Lemurian says:

    Excellent video – real pearls definitely are not vegan but similar to leather and other products I have no problem with people buying them secondhand or using ones they already owned before they became vegan. Buying them new is a different matter though. As you said, there's no need to have real pearls when the same beauty can be created artificially, without harming animals or the people who harvest the pearls.

  • Celesiaeyes says:

    Hi Margaret! What do you think about abalone? Just a thought! Sending love, wellness, and vegan hugs! ☺️

  • The Lippy Hippie says:

    love this video so much…. i learned a tonne thanks Margaret

  • Vanessa Barreto says:

    Wow so well stated! Being pearl obsessed myself, your video really makes me question my love of real pearls. Such a great and informative video! Thank you!

  • Paula H says:

    I also adore pearls. I have both real and fake. You have made me think about it when it had not entered my mind before. I must go through my jewelry. I will keep the fake ones and get rid of the real (which I bought for myself anyway so no sentimental link there). Thank you so very much. I love the insight that you impart.

  • Louisa Hula says:

    thank you for making this video, it's very informative! I think I'm in the same boat as you after learning about pearl production, I will keep wearing the necklace that my sister got me years ago, but I won't be buying any real pearls in the future.

  • Adalya says:

    Really interesting video. I have a pair of pearl earrings that my grandmother gifted me and I think they are real but I never checked because I would like them just as much if they weren't.
    I generally don't understand why people spend large amounts of money on jewellery, especially the "need" to spend a couple thousand dollars on an engagement ring for example. If my boyfriends proposed to me with a simple silver ring I'd be just as likely to say yes then with a diamond as big as my thumb nail… but then again traditional luxury never meant anything to me. My luxury is a quiet evening with a good glas of wine and a nice book 😀

  • Lark Only says:

    I'd be curious as to the manufacture of fake pearls. What are the materials used and what are the environmental costs of their production?

  • Fun Cam says:


  • TheSUPERHAPPY1 says:

    My Facebook has recently been filled with "Lucky Oyster" livestreams. The pearls are numbered, and people pay to be able to pick the oyster that gets opened. Everyone seems to get very excited if the oyster has "twins" (two pearls in it).
    Seems like every week another woman is doing a "Lucky Oyster" livestream – people in my friends list share it, so I end-up seeing them.
    I'm sure pearl farmers are happy with this new trend, a lot if the comments are people asking how they can start hosting Lucky Oyster live streams.
    Seems like a waste to spend that on a pearl to wear around your neck, but some people seem addicted to it, like gambling.

  • tim gersh says:

    i should care because lets say i have a vegan wife, she wants me to get her a pearl something well those things are not cheap, and i am all for anything that saves me money

  • tim gersh says:

    well i was vegan for awhile but all the vegan drama turned me off to it, and maybe one day i will go vegan again but thats another thing. So where i live in the winter gets super cold so i have to wear a coat, now years back a friend bought me this really nice leather coat that as a vegan id wear and i figured 1 its a gift 2 i got it while not a vegan and 3 it gets cold in the winter. So if its such a big deal vegans can do one of two things; they can either fund my new life in a place thats warmer in the winter or they can buy me a new coat

  • Mariana Velasco says:

    Creat vídeo, I have been questioning this for a while. Nevertheless dont you think that wearing fake pearls increase people perseption on using pearls in general (fake or real)? I have seen Vegan vídeos where people ask to remove the fake fur of jackets do decrese people buying real fur

  • zaharia ema says:

    I like how you are being really honest and straight forward but still very respectful

  • Priyanka Thakur says:

    where can i buy real looking fake pearl from?😕

  • drsalka says:

    but im a vegan snob 😬😐

  • Michael Bastas says:

    What about diamonds?

  • Amber says:

    Bivalves do not have a brain, and thus are not really capable of feeling pain. Yeah, pearls are made by animals, but these cannot suffer. Their responses are automatic. Please check out:

  • Hippie Island says:

    Love this so much I was recently offered a collab with a company I just turned down because they were pearl health and beauty products and as a vegan no amount of money could make me go against my morals awesome informative video I subscribed💜

  • Somer Graham says:

    Agreed! However a lot of artificial pearls are made with plastic. Some are even made out of mullosc shells which aren’t usually found and rather are taken from the living organisms themselves. So If the goal is to reduce waste and find a vegan and harmless version look for artificial pearls made of glass!

  • daniela Merino says:

    No i will never buy pearls, even though they aren't killed, i refuse to contribute to the exploitation of animals, big or small!!!

  • tearfully enchanted says:

    So we're basically getting an oyster pregnant and stealing its baby's

  • Andrea Sleight says:

    im greek and make jewllery that looks like what my ancient ancestors wore i like glass pearls they have the same feel of real pearls and you can get them in iregular shapes that look unique i prefer them to the perfectly round ones the go well with gold and gems like spinel

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