MANILA, November 13, 2005 (STAR) SHOPSIFTED By Ana G. Kalaw - There is a story that lies behind the beauty of the Philippine South Sea pearl, a tale that enriches its luster and gives more value to the "orient" or its inner glow, which is the unique characteristic of this mysterious gem. It is a story that heralds man’s dedication to the preservation of nature, a story steeped in the interaction of man and his environment.

The narrator of this story is Jewelmer, a company that knows the tale of the South Sea pearl by heart. As the biggest producers of the Philippine South Sea pearl, Jewelmer experiences first-hand the birth of this "living gem," from its three-year conception within the womb of the Pinctada maxima oyster to its timely harvesting. Jewelmer knows how much effort goes into the production of pearls, and how this is highly dependent on the whims of nature’s elements and how man works in accordance with these elements.

The majesty of the South Sea pearl comes to be because nature wills it. In the Jewelmer-produced book The Ultimate Orient Philippine South Sea Pearls, Alya Honasan writes, "Shaped within a living creature, the South Sea pearl is sustained by the ocean’s movement, and is polished by the light of a tropical sun." The life of the South Sea pearl – the biggest, rarest, and most valued of all pearls – continues because man works for it.

In Jewelmer’s pearl farms, scattered along the pristine islands of southern Palawan, man is not only a harvester of pearls but also a steward of the environment. Angela Poblador, marketing manager for Jewelmer, explains, "The pearl is the only gem that goes through the symbiotic interaction between nature and human beings. Nature provides sustenance and a home to the oyster. Human beings take care of nature and the oyster. Nature shapes the pearl and gives it unique characteristics. Human beings make sure that nature continues to do so by shielding it from harmful activities and pollution."

Jewelmer’s pearl farms not only yield magnificent gems. They also sustain and continue the life cycles that thrive within the ocean. Cages used in the cultivation of oysters also act as cradles for the growth of young marine life, provide shelter for a variety of aquatic organisms, afford breeding areas for aquatic flora and fauna, and support the proliferation of larvae and phytoplankton (microorganisms that provide nutrition to oysters and other marine animals).

Jewelmer’s recent show, "Elements of Style, The Ultimate Orient 2005" at the Hong Kong Jewelry and Watch Fair, Asia’s biggest gathering of jewelry and watch makers from 47 countries worldwide, was another creative retelling of the tale of Philippine South Sea pearl. Since the year 2000, Jewelmer has been organizing shows in this annual Hong Kong exhibition, not only to showcase the splendor of the Philippine South Sea pearl, but also to promote the culture and the beauty of the country it comes from, and to lobby for nature’s role in the creation of the pearl. Last year’s show celebrated Jewelmer’s 25th year in the pearl-farming industry and centered on the company’s love affair with the sea. Handcrafted pearl jewelry inspired by the rich diversity of Palawan’s aquatic life was set against the stylish dresses skillfully created by local designer Jojie Lloren.

This year’s theme, a continuing reflection of Jewelmer’s dedication to the environment, focused on the four elements of nature: earth, wind, fire, and water. A pearl is the "unified symbol of these elements in harmony." Water provides a home for the oysters, the blowing wind provides for the strong water circulation of the sea, the earth gives shelter to the caretakers of the pearl, and fire symbolizes the passion ignited in the pearl farmers to lovingly produce these gems.

The designs of the jewelry exhibited in the show were made in accordance with these four elements. Long-strand necklaces, brooches, pendants, drop earrings, and bracelets were inspired by sea waves, corals, the flowers and the trees found in Jewelmer’s pearl farms. Through each piece, Jewelmer demonstrates the synergy between nature and human beings, and incites a subtle call for environmental care. The soft and fluid clothes by Rhett Eala and the creative dance interpretations of local dance group Powerdance strengthened Jewelmer’s cultural thrust.

"The pearl is the barometer for the health of the environment," says Jewelmer president Manuel Cojuangco, who waxed lyrical when he introduced "The Ultimate Orient 2005." As producers of the only "living gem," what Jewelmer ultimately wants is this: that an admiration of the Philippine South Sea pearl is an acknowledgment of the processes, both nature-decreed and man-made, that have ensued to bring about its creation. That an appreciation of the pearl’s beauty is also an appreciation of the majesty of the ocean (from the most microscopic of all organisms to the biggest of clam shells), the tranquility of wind, the force of fire, and the energy of the earth.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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