Biojewelery is identified as accessories created from what nature has to offer.  From seeds as beads, stones as semi-precious accessories, pearls, and fibers as bangles—all at a zero-carbon emissions level.

Although our first Spanish “investors” came in stunned by the over-abundance of gold in the Philippines, what Pigafetta failed to note was how the ancient inhabitants also created the now—and then—fashionable biojewelry.  With ancient inhabitants wearing gold on practically every inch of skin it’s understandable why zero sight was given to other accessories.  However, with sustainability leading the shift in the world’s preference, one can’t disregard biojewelry and expect to remain relevant.

Biojewels were the early age’s expression of art, culture and emotions.  From umber seeds of the Buri Palm; the spotted hues on the Coconut chips; the fiery reds of the kansasaga seeds (Abrus precatorius L.) to the ash whites of various shells, there has been a comeback in these classic accessories.  Man—or rather woman—goes back to her basics: living in harmony with nature.

It is fitting that as we look forward into the future of biojewelry, we must look back to its beginnings in our islands.  In the picturesque island of El Nido, Palawan, we find that first signs of biojewelry inside the Ille Cave complex.  Mollusks sea snail accessories found were either whole or designed and cut in a studied technique, with specific tools and decorated with indigenous appliqués.  It offers a glimpse into our Late-Neolithic culture (beginning around 10,000 B. C).  Yes, we already had fine arts long before colonization.  We were part of the maritime bead trade of Asia, as well as practiced gold smelters & jewelers.  Shell beads were replaced by glass beads circa 400 B. C. and so on.  But as the growing concern on environmental responsibility, the once-upon-a-time labeled as costume jewelry takes center stage as the eco jewelry movement.

It’s fashion with an eco twist: both contemporary and yet deeply entrenched in cultural flavor and history.  It can be said that anything new is really an improvement of something from the past.  The same can be said with the Philippine biojewelry industry.

Current biojewelry mix and match what nature gives with what man throws out in a splash of ingeniously created art.  But more than art, biojewelry is a reflection of conscious shifts towards sustainable sensibilities ingrained into everyday life; to have a hand in protecting our resources.

Francis, P. (2002). Asia’s Maritime Bead Trade: 300 BC to the Present. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
Basilia, P.G.A. (2012). Morphological and Technological analysis of the Microperforated cut shell beads from Ille site, El Nido, Palawan (Unpublished Master’s dissertation). University of the Philippines Diliman Archaeological Studies Program, Quezon City.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: