Beauty Without Cruelty - India

Jewellery and Accessories

Jewellery can very well represent torture and death of animals.

Jewellery like rings, ear rings, nose rings, necklaces, broaches, bangles, bracelets, amulets, anklets, and accessories like beads, buckles, buttons, cigarette lighters, combs, eye glasses/spectacle frames, hair clips/slides/bands, cufflinks, tie-pins, trimmings on attire, converted into precious and semi-precious pieces, can be made from bone, horn, ivory, tiger/emu/animal nails, elephant/bear/horse/animal hair, coral, pearls, mother of pearl, shells, tortoise shell, scales, butterflies, scorpions, insects, feathers, shellac/lac, silk, wool, leather, fur, skin, marine flora and fauna, etc., all of animal origin representing torture/death.

Some times these products form part of the finished item, e.g. a protected tiger or big cat’s nails/claws, illegally obtained and studded with precious stones such as diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and/or rubies, set in gold or platinum, are converted into ‘exquisite’ jewellery pieces. Toe nails of emus, set and polished in different ways, are also found as jewellery pieces and worn as lucky charms.

Emu and ostrich feathers are extensively used in show business as fringes, trimmings, fans, boas, apparel and accessories. The tail feathers of egrets are used in ornamental tufts of aigrettes for which only upright plumes are utilised. Earrings, necklaces, headbands and clutches are made of peacock feathers. Porcupine quills are also fashion accessories in the form of strung and threaded jewellery – no one waits for the animals to shed them or to naturally die so they are killed for their quills. As long as plumage is accepted for adornment and decorative purposes, over and above those which come from farmed birds, the illegal traffic in wild bird feathers will continue. There is an artist in Mumbai who uses moulted pigeon and crow feathers that she can find by assembling them into geometric patterns. She has admitted that when she first began to use feathers to make art she did not realise the quantity she would require…

Eagle/bear claw pendants and water buffalo teeth bracelets are also available. Musk deer teeth are traditionally coveted by women in northern parts of India who believe it to be a mark of their husbands’ hunting prowess even though the musk deer is protected and totally hunting prohibited. The pangolin’s scales are fashioned into rings (worn in Odisha to cure piles!) that are said to bring luck to the wearer – pangolins are illegally hunted in India, but most of the scales are smuggled out to Myanmar for use as medicines or for witchcraft. Fashionable coats made from pangolin scales are another attraction. Horn and bone of several animals are also utilised in making jewellery. Ironically at the annual Pushkar camel fair near Ajmer in Rajasthan bone jewellery sold is of camel origin. Unfortunately, several high-end jewellers have begun using camel bone in their pieces.


Cameo is a method of carving on shell (mussel, cowry, conch, helmet/sardonyx), agate or glass. Original shell cameo (and intaglio) jewellery is typically hand-carved in Italy as portraits and worn as broaches, pendants, rings and bracelets. Imitation cameos are plastic.

Amber used in jewellery is fossilised resin containing trapped insect/s but this is a natural phenomena unlike beautiful/colourful butterflies and delicately formed insects/beetles/scorpions which are killed to be converted into jewellery items. These delicate creatures may or may not be encased in material such as clear plastic/resin, or be electroformed like some pretty leaves and flowers. In 2012 at Bengaluru over 300 imported from China plastic key-chains with embedded beetles were seized by the forest mobile squad. In fact, there are companies around the world that produce items such as key-chains, paper weights, bottle openers, computer mice and jewellery from real insects, butterflies and small fish, frogs, etc.

Cloisonné is a metal-working technique which involves enamel processes. Enamel is either a coating that sets by the absorption of oxygen from the air or a glaze that is melted into a layer. The basic elements of enamel are boric acid, saltpetre and alkaline. Colour depends upon the minerals added: e.g. grey due to iron, yellow with uranium, green with chromium, white with zinc, blue with bronze and red with gold or iodine. Enamel/Meenakari work as found in Rajasthani jewellery and artefacts is done on metal, stone and glass. The process involves firing a special decorative paint which contains varnish or resin. The paint and/or varnish and resin may or may not contain animal substances such as lac. Jadoo/Jadau is meenakari with a stone setting.

 

Kolhapuri shellac-filled gold beads form part of Maharashtrian traditional jewellery. Similarly, Kundan/Polki jewellery is not set in gold alone – shellac is used. Maharashtrian brides wear nath and other ornaments like chandrakor, tanmanikhod, chinchpeti, gajra which may be set with pearls. In fact, bridal ornaments such as maang tikka, bajubandh, nose ring, mangalsutra, rings on fingers and toes and even bangles can contain pearls. The traditional Gujarati bride wears ivory chudas/bangles having a mix of white, green and red, whereas Punjabi brides wear red and white ivory chudas. In Rajasthan green and red coloured ichuras (stone studded lac bangles) are worn. In West Bengal and Orissa pola (lac) and shanka (shell) bangles are of great importance. Bangles made of a very large species of sea snail and of ivory are both illegal. Faux ivory should not be mistaken as being non-animal in origin – it could be made of bone and mother-of-pearl. Vegetable ivory is from ivory nut/tagua palms called Phytelephas.

 

In the 1980s BWC requested the UDCT – University Department of Chemical Technology Matunga, Mumbai (now called Institute of Chemical Technology) to undertake research in polymer technology to develop a material called ivorine that would match elephant ivory in colour, strength, weight and carve-ability. Unfortunately, it did not turn out as per our expectations and we gave up the project after the Government of India imposed a total ban in trade (import/export/internal) in ivory whether of Indian or African elephants. The problem was carve-ability. The material could otherwise match ivory if it was moulded.


It is unfortunate that thousands of prehistoric mammoth tusks called “ice” are being dug out of the melting permafrost of the Artic and shipped to China for carving into ice jewellery and ornaments. This has led to traders passing off illegally poached elephant tusks as mammoth ivory. BWC feels mammoth ivory should be banned because it keeps up the demand for elephant ivory and encourages poachers.


Navratan rings or nine gem astrologically based rings usually have blue sapphire/neelam for Saturn, yellow sapphire/pukhraj for Jupiter, ruby/manik for Sun, diamond/heera for Venus, emerald/panna for Mercury, coral/moonga for Mars, pearl/moti for Moon, cat’s eye/lahasunya for Ketu and hessonite/gomedh for Rahu. Since these rings are based on planetary colours, coral can be substituted with red jasper (it has similar properties but to a lesser degree) and white moonstone/chandramani in place of pearl.


24kt gold or silver dipped jewellery and display items (e.g. peepal leaf) are made using a process called electroforming, utilising a real/natural leaf or flower. The matrix/mandrel used could also be a seashell, butterfly, insect, etc. – an extremely cruel process because the delicate live creatures’ beauty is frozen with a thin metal ‘skin’ on its entire surface. It is similar to electroplating in which a base metal is used, e.g. copper or brass jewellery coated in gold and called 1-gram (or may be more) gold jewellery.

Gilding is metal-leaf/composition-leaf/imitation-leaf/schlagmetal looks like real gold, but is imitation metal leaf. Made exactly in the same way as silver/gold –leaf/varkh (hammered between ox-gut skin) it was the only cost effective way for gilding jewellery, statues, picture frames, rooftops, and other objects before the discovery of electroplating. However, the process of water gilding for which the metal leaf is applied with an ox hair brush, has remained unchanged for hundreds of years and is still in use. Découpage work which is similar in outcome, in addition involves the use of glue which could be of animal origin.

Ion plating (PVD) is a vacuum coating process in which the material to be coated is physically removed from a source in vacuum by evaporation. Ion plated coatings can also be applied for surface modification and enhancement to various substrates such as stainless steel and nickel plated brass articles: PVD multi-layer coatings of titanium nitride (TiN) and gold is applied in single/dual colour on jewellery and watch-straps (also on decorative items, pins, hardware, bathroom fittings, cutlery, luggage accessories, scissors, surgical instruments, etc.).

Unless a nylon thread or metal wire is specifically asked for, pearl, coral, gold and other bead necklaces are strung with silk thread. Leather cords/strings/ropes, usually in brown, olive green or black are some times used in place of metal chains for pendants and bracelets. Some wrist watches have leather/silk/velvet straps and mother-of-pearl dials. A new trend is eco-friendly jewellery which is made of just about any thing, e.g. wood, ceramic, terracotta, reeds & fibres like those of banana leaf, papier-mâché, leather, handmade paper, and recycled fabrics & threads which could contain silk.

Shellac/lac goes into the making of different types of lacquer bangles and handicraft items. Liquid lac that imparts desired levels of sheen is painted on wooden and metal pieces as a finisher – colour may or may not be added to the lacquer which dries by solvent evaporation or a curing process that produces a hard, durable finish. Lacquer jewellery is often embedded with stones, beads and glass. Certain lac jewellery consists of silver foil shells filled with lac wax/resin in order to impart strength. A lakh is 100,000 and that many lac insects are killed for 333 grams of shellac. India is responsible for 50% of the world production.


For detailed information on Shellac please read http://www.bwcindia.org/Web/Awareness/LearnAbout/Shellac.html


Rakhis
and friendship bands can contain silk, zari based on silk thread, peacock feathers, pearls and/or wool.


Nail art/décor is increasing in popularity. It has a wide range of nail embellishments/jewellery considered trendy, elegant and chic. It consists of crushed shells, acrylic flowers, tiny beads, dry flowers, chains and gemstones. A shellac manicure involves nails painted with polish containing shellac which remains intact for a fortnight, but is harmful for health because the nails are dried under UV light. Nail vanishes in different finishes like caviar, velvet and leather have surfaced. And then there is a cruel fish pedicure for which fish are continuously kept hungry and feet are mildly cleansed and dipped into a half-filled tank of water populated by fresh water fish called Garra rufa or “doctor” fish. The fish nibble at the feet or rather slough off dead cells for 15 to 20 minutes, which is followed by a pedicure or foot massage. This bizarre pedicure is available in many cities of India although UK’s Health Protection Agency has warned that fish pedicures can be the cause of severe infection. In fact, those with diabetes, psoriasis or weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable and at risk particularly of blood-borne viruses that are transmitted if infected clients bleed in spa water which is re-used. BWC has written to the Ministry of Health to ban fish pedicures in India just like they have been banned in parts of USA and Canada because they are unsanitary and spread diseases.


Spas and massage parlours also utilise many animal ingredients and some even use living creatures like in Jakarta, Indonesia, were snake massages are given mainly to tourists. Using two-metre long pythons that slide, drape and roll over clients, the snakes’ scaly, cold skin is supposed to do the massaging. The pythons’ diet consists of live rabbits so it is not only the snakes, but the rabbits too that suffer, more so the terrified rabbits.

 

Coral/moonga is used in jewellery and also for shop window displays. It is sold at tourist destinations too, e.g. coral beads at Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet. Like in other countries, in India too, the hard skeleton of the coral reefs are mined for coral. India also imports precious red coral/moonga from Mediterranean countries.

Coral reefs sustain colonies of millions of tiny animals called coral polyps which have soft, sac-like bodies. Dugongs or sea cows (estimated population 250 in 2015) which are massive slow breeding sea mammals (often mistaken by sailors as the mythical mermaids) also exist in shallow waters with coral reef formations like around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This coral reef and the one around Lakshadweep Islands (where the dugong population is extinct) are more fascinating than the ones off Port Okha and Dwarka in the Gulf of Kutch, and off Rameswaram in the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka.


As coral reefs grow at an extremely slow rate of 1 to 2.5 cm a year, mining destroys not only the work of centuries in a matter of hours but kills countless lives. They are as important to oceans as trees are to land. But unfortunately, climate change (ocean heat waves) is bleaching and harming the world’s corals. Rampant development is killing corals – far more than blamed. For example, 70% in the Persian Gulf have gone and the main reason is UAE’s Palm Jumeirah which buried three square miles of living coral under tons of rock and sand (that this artificial archipelago is said to be sinking is significant). Even dead coral reefs are home to a multitude of marine creatures. Illicit mining of coral reefs is done under the pretext of taking out only worn-out corals called finger-jellies. In 2015 poison injecting robot submarines that assassinate the crown-of-thorns starfish or sea stars that live on coral polyps was put to use. Instead of killing them, BWC feels that at least tourists should not be allowed to use sunscreen – oxybenzone a UV filtering chemical compound in 3,500 brands of sunscreen worldwide is damaging coral and is especially fatal to baby coral, and high concentrations of this chemical are found around coral reefs popular with tourists.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) there are 55,000 coral reefs that occupy less than a quarter of 1% of the earth’s marine environment, yet they are threatened by humans. In March 2012, the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation (UNESCO) recommended that the World Heritage Committee should consider listing Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as a world heritage site. In 27 years the coral cover of this reef had halved, and if such trends continued it could halve again by 2022. But by 2016, the situation was worse than expected: 93% of this reef (the world’s largest living ecosystem) had been affected by bleaching which occurs when the water gets too warm and living algae are expelled causing the coral to calcify, turn white and die. In other words, just 7% of the Great Barrier Reef had not been affected by bleaching. The rest of the coral unless mildly bleached was unlikely to recover even if the temperature dropped.

 

In view of a quarter of the earth’s corals having disappeared, marine biologists at the Mote Tropical Research Laboratory in Summerland Key, Florida, USA, discovered how to grow coral colonies in shallow salt-water tanks at an astonishing rate. Started with 1½ inch coral fragments from a parent colony and with the application of a technique called micro-fragmenting, the coral grew 25-50 times faster than the normal rate. The lab created corral is used for reef-building – transplanting onto dead or dying reefs that took centuries to develop.


For detailed information on Coral please read http://www.bwcindia.org/Web/Awareness/LearnAbout/Coral.html


Marketed by colour, lustre/glow, shape, size/grade, and surface quality, pearls/moti have been ridiculously promoted side by side with two other ‘P’s: ‘pearls, politics and power’. It is happening to entice women to buy them – citing examples of women celebrities who wore them in the last century and those who wear them now, and with added catchy slogans like ‘bigger the better’ ‘perfect pearls’ and ‘from classy to jazzy’.

99.99% of pearls sold in the market are cultured pearls. Most astrologers feel that cultured pearls can give side effects because their production has involved torture to oysters. They may not be aware of the pain and death oysters of natural pearls have undergone. 70% of pearls are worn as necklaces and chokers.

There is literally a one in a million chance of finding a natural pearl/moti. It could take as many as 100,000 oysters to produce a single good pearl necklace. When a piece of grit embeds itself in the soft body tissue of an oyster, it wraps it in nacre which forms into a natural pearl. (The glow of a pearl is based on the amount and quality of the nacre layers.) To simulate this natural accident, man uses a pair of surgical tongs to hold the valves open, makes an incision in the oyster’s soft body, and puts some gravel inside. (This gravel is a bit of shell/tissue from a freshly sacrificed life.) The pain on getting a splinter under our skin is very a mild form of what the pearl oyster is made to suffer. An oyster is liable to die while being incised or falling a prey to fouling and boring organisms while secreting the nacre. Even if it does survive these two steps, it has only a 10% chance of getting through unscathed during the pearl removal which can be after as long as seven years of pain and agony — only to produce a single cultured pearl. Only 40% of the pearls obtained are marketable, out of which 5% turn out perfectly spherical and fetch a good price. Thus each and every pearl, whether cultured or natural, represents hundreds and thousands of shells being opened up and discarded, resulting in the death of a great number of oysters.

Irrespective of the type, colour (like white, black, crème, pink, golden, fuchsia, maroon, green, grey and in hues of blue) or name given to the pearls, the natural ones being Conch, Melo Melo, Abalone and Scallop, commonly available from Iraq (Basra), Venezuela and Australia; and cultured pearls being Saltwater, Akoya/Classic, Freshwater/Biwaco/Baroque/South Sea/Tahitian, Cortez, and Keshi; and those called Hyderabad, Mandapam, the famous Mikimoto of Japan, etc., all pearls have a hidden history of pain and killing. (Although Hyderabad is considered as the biggest pearl retail market in the world, it does not produce a single pearl.) Even Majorica pearls of Spain termed ‘man-made pearls’ and some others called ‘artificial/fake/simulated pearls’ use fish scales and/or lustre from cultured pearls in their making. At Chilika Lake (Orissa) pearls are hawked by literally plucking them out from oysters. Not being genuine pearls is one aspect, but that they have been planted in oysters results in their death.


In 2012 Beauty Without Cruelty launched a campaign against the use of pearls as a result of which ORRA (one of the world’s leading jewellers) agreed not to sell pearls in five of its stores and display the “Pearls = Pain” poster. It is hoped that other jewellers in India follow suit.

For detailed information on Pearls please read
http://www.bwcindia.org/Web/Awareness/LearnAbout/Pearls.html

 

Capiz shells which have a similar lustre to mother of pearl are mainly found and used in the Philippines for jewellery such as bead necklaces, bracelets and earrings. (Decorative handicraft items are also made from them.)


Seahorses are protected but collected under the guise of “by-catch” off the coast in South India and become a part of the illegal aquarium trade within India and some are smuggled out from Chennai. Worldwide more than 10 lakh are used by the curio and jewellery industry. And, over a lakh are used in Chinese medicines and as aphrodisiacs. Incidentally, 2017 investigations revealed that as a result of bottom trawling, seahorses and sea cucumbers were being sold off for Rs 4/- a kilogram or even at Rs 2/- a kilogram, and ended up as poultry or fish feed.


Live creatures such as snakes and reptiles, in ladies handbags was a so-called fashion craze which should have been ridiculed, not glorified as a status symbol and termed “the must-have accessory”. A
news item reported that a lady air passenger’s belt on arrival at Glasgow airport suddenly took life: the belt was a harmless live snake which had been chilled prior to the flight to keep it comatose but which had thawed out in the heat of the terminal. In another instance a gagged and drugged tiger cub was found hidden among stuffed toy tigers in the suitcase of a woman flying from Iran to Thailand in 2012. (The worldwide illegal trade in wildlife is now second only to drugs in terms of international crime.)

Unusual materials are increasingly turned into jewellery, some with gems and precious metals, showcased at “Collect” the international art fair for contemporary objects. For example, Sebastian Buescher has come out with a ring containing a tiny squid and Christoph Zellweger has covered animal bones with flesh coloured flock. And believe it or not, a one-of-a-kind (thank goodness) necklace made of gold, diamonds, rubies, Tahiti pearls, acrylic and a live fish (which is taken out from the compartment later) got an Indian designer publicity and of course drew a lot of flak from animal rights activists.

 

Along similar lines starting 2013 there were several international petitions (supported by BWC) including one by Avaaz to stop live animal jewellery in the form of key-chains, lucky charms and amulets in China. It is an unimaginable extreme form of cruelty: live fish, tiny soft-shelled turtles, small lizards or amphibians are encased in plastic with “crystallized oxygen and nutrients designed to keep the animals alive” but they can not and do not live long. Over and above which customers are advised to microwave and eat the creatures after they die.


Shells collected on the seashore often seem devoid of any life, but most of them contain a very tiny creature or two. Prior to being cleaned (washed) BWC has checked a bagful of shells collected by urchins on the beach off Mumbai and found tiny live creatures in almost all the shells. Such shells are used as ornaments or meaninglessly picked up.

Incidentally in 2011, a year after Lady Gaga got publicity for wearing a dress made of meat, the Communication Museum, Berlin, displayed a bizarre “Fashion Food” exhibition of outfits such as an octopus tunic, a suit made from bacon, and a scarf of squid ink pasta.

Although an exquisite piece of jewellery could be free of animal parts, it is some times sold in a silk-lined leather case, or may be handed over in a silk pouch. Thus the packing could very well contain both or either silk or leather and therefore becomes unacceptable to vegetarians. In such circumstances, vegetarians would want to state their objections and make sure that they do not even pay for the silk pouch or leather case when declining to accept it.

Some times inappropriate prizes are won like pearl jewellery. Being ‘free’ it certainly doesn’t absolve us even if we decide to give it away. It is best to decline acceptance of the prize.

Chamois leather is soft leather of a small mountain antelope or young sheep/goat/kid/pig (could also be of dog skin) and being highly water absorbent is used for cleaning, rubbing and polishing items made of brass, silverware, jewellery, etc. The usually yellow coloured soft cotton cloth, commonly available for cleaning cars is the non-leather alternative.

Page last updated on 24/10/17