New York City. Jan. 14, 2020. Sustainable-jewelry designer Ana Katarina first saw Sea of Cortez pearls, the product of a rainbow-lipped mollusk dubbed Pteria sterna that is found along the Pacific coastline, in 2016 at Columbia Gem House, a purveyor of 100 percent Fair Trade gems and jewelry. On a visit to Tucson, Ariz., for the trade-only AGTA GemFair, GJX show, and others, Katarina was on the hunt for ethically sourced materials she’d never before worked with and fell for the exotic color and luster of the silver-tone pearls with rainbow-color iridescence.
“Farms can say they are sustainable, but as an ex-journalist I like to do a lot of digging to determine for myself that something is sustainable,” she explains in a phone interview.
Sea of Cortez pearls grow at the Sea of Cortez farm in Guaymas, Sonora, México, which began as a university research program in 1993, according to online educational platform Pearls As One. Katarina learned that conservation efforts were hugely important to the farm since beautiful pearls only grow in pristine aquatic environments.
Columbia Gem House defines Fair Trade Gems as those that were “tracked from mine to market” and “handled according to strict protocols” including “environmental protection, fair labor practices, and a tight chain of custody that eliminates the possibility of treated gems or synthetics being introduced into the supply chain.” Satisfied that the farm was producing Fair Trade gems, Katarina designed the Sea of Love pearl jewelry collection.
While the name is a nod to the mid-80s hit by the Honeydrippers, the jewels have a sensual flow about them. Designs exhibit a balance of “positive and negative space,” and certain ones have an Art Deco-esque flair. All celebrate the “vibrancy of the sustainable ecosystem” in which Sea of Cortez pearls originate, explains Katarina. “I’m fascinated by the unique shapes of each pearl and the tonal qualities of the purple, green, and gray hues. Each piece is so unique because of the luster.”
Pieces are made in 18k yellow and white gold, some with diamonds and tsavorite garnets. Retail prices start at $3,600.
Sea of Love ring in 18k recycled yellow gold with Fair Trade Sea of Cortez pearls, $3,605; available online at Ana Katarina
I Put a Spell on You earrings in in 18k recycled white gold with Fair Trade Sea of Cortez pearls and 1.15 cts. t.w. Fair Trade diamonds, $9,980; available online at Ana Katarina
I Put a Spell on You necklace in in 18k recycled white gold with Fair Trade Sea of Cortez pearls and 1.42 cts. t.w. F-color, VS-clarity, Fair Trade diamonds, $10,840; available online at Ana Katarina
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