21 December 2008

Coral is Too Precious to Wear

Environmentally aware designers are making a colorful splash (no pun intended) into ocean conservation; inspired by SeaWeb’s "Too Precious to Wear" campaign. To raise awareness about the world’s precious and delicate coral reef depletion, the campaign encourages unique ways for us all to enjoy inspired coral designs that are NOT CORAL.

At a recent conference in the big apple, Josh Dorfman, super cute environmental entrepreneur, media personality, and acclaimed author of The Lazy Environmentalist, lead a panel discussion entitled “Too Precious to Wear: Conserving Coral, a Jewel of the Ocean,” as part of the annual Initiatives in Art and Culture conference. Panel participants included SeaWeb president Dawn M. Martin and Dr. Andrew Baker – also super cute and 2008 Pew Fellow recipient, renowned coral scientist and professor at the University of Miami. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to hear about their cause and wanted to share with you what I discovered!

“Nature is our best Designer” - John Loring, Design Director, Tiffany & Company

Look for deep-sea red, orange and pink corals to show up on the runway in 2009 – not as baubles made from animal carcasses harvested from the Earths precious reefs, but instead as a color celebration honoring this unique breed of animal that has inspired so many artists throughout the ages. The campaign encourages designers in every medium to create using coral colors and textures but sans the real thing.

Precious corals are facing threats from climate change, over-fishing, pollution and consumer demand. According to Dawn, 3/4 of our planet is ocean yet less than half of a percent of conservation dollars go towards ocean preservation. Because of these concerns about the sustainability of corals as a raw material, designers such as the gang from Tiffany & Co. removed coral from their product lines over five years ago – Hazzah!

SeaWeb’s Too Precious to Wear campaign aims to create a demand for coral conservation and is calling for designers to step up to the challenge in the protection of corals, and designers are taking this challenge seriously.

Precious corals are more often seen adorning the necks of women than in their natural ocean habitat. Red corals have been fished for more than 5,000 years in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, but serious signs of decline have appeared in just the past two decades. The United States, as the world’s largest documented consumer, has placed significant pressure on these threatened animals, importing more than 26 million pieces from 2001 to 2006. Too Precious to Wear is calling for increased monitoring of the red coral trade. The campaign is urging the U.S. and other countries to list red and pink corals under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

There are many opportunities to celebrate the beauty of the ocean without destroying Earth’s precious resources. Jewelry designer, Hannah Garrison of AZU jewelry chose to depict coral’s delicate branches in solid sterling silver, while another interpretation by Luciana Jewelry is all about the color. The Berry Coil Bracelet (above) is Fairly Traded and coral inspired, in coral red seeds and recycled Colombian pesos and topped off with a faceted clear quartz nugget adds sparkle that I find super fab.

The Jay Strongwaters coral inspired Compact contributes, one compact at a time, to a better world. The collectors' limited-edition compact artfully depicts coral in hand lacquered decoration. Proceeds go to “Reefs of Hope,” a Pew Institute for Ocean Science project. I found this at Neiman Marcus for $420 a while back.

Eco clothing designer Bonnie Siefers, of Jonano celebrates coral in her Angel Collection that is heavenly, again please excuse the pun, in shades of coral that are certain to rock the runway this spring. Check out Too Precious to Wear (www.tooprecioustowear.org) to see other coral-inspired designers.

PS: SeaWeb and Too Precious to Wear will launch a collection of coral alternative jewelry with nine leading fashion and jewelry designers in winter 2009. Each designer has created a single signature piece inspired by corals and our ocean planet.

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