Swarovski teams up with the SVG Environment Fund
by Bria King
Vibrant coloured crystals shone bright from encrusted motifs of turtles, geckos and fish on Mustique recently, when a world-renowned brand and jewellery designer launched a collection to raise awareness for endangered species in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Atelier Swarovski and jewellery designer, Catherine Prevost joined forces to create the Sea Life Collection, which was officially unveiled on April 18 at a cocktail event at the Great Room of the Cotton House Hotel. Over 100 persons attended the event, including Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and his wife.
Part proceeds from the new collection will go to the St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund (SVGEF) to support its work with three endangered or threatened species: the hawksbill turtle, the parrot fish and the Union Island gecko.
Catherine Prevost, a jewellery designer with about 30 years’ experience told SEARCHLIGHT that her family has been supporting the environmental fund for years.
She said that when Nadja Swarovski asked her to do a collection and also gave her the option to choose any island in the world, she immediately thought of Mustique as it is a special place that she and her family have been visiting for over a decade.
“Designing was the easy part because I love the animals here and my children have grown up swimming with the turtles and learning about the turtles and I’ve always wanted to do an animal collection. I’ve really never done one,” she said.
While Prevost designs beautiful bespoke pieces and has done at least one collaboration in the past, the jewellery designer said she has never worked on a collection quite like this one.
The Sea Life Collection offers a variety of rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, raffia clutch bags and a brooch; all of which feature motifs of the three species, encrusted with sparkling crystals of blue, green, pink, red, bronze and yellow.
The mother of four spoke passionately about the three species that her collection will help to protect, and joked about how often she speaks to her children about the worthy cause.
She said that the animals are important to the ecosystem and need to stay in the environment.
Prevost believes that the ways to get people to stop endangering these species involve educating the children, training people and empowering them with the necessary knowledge.
“…My way to raise awareness is to make something beautiful and it will tell a story. So I feel like if you were to wear those earrings and have someone say ‘I love those’, then you can say it’s the parrot fish and they’re endangered and it has a stronger message maybe than other ways,” Prevost said.
And what better company to collaborate with on this particular project, than one whose beginnings were founded on the principles of sustainability?
When Swarovski began in 1885, Nadja Swarovski’s great great grandfather started his company in the Tyrolean Alps of Austria, where he could power his crystal cutting machines with the water power coming out of the mountains.
And over a century later, Nadja told SEARCHLIGHT that sustainability remains a centre piece of the company.
The businesswoman said that when the company started, it was about empowering women by providing them with an affordable alternative to diamonds.
But now, it’s about empowering people not just through beauty, but with the knowledge that is attached to the product.
“We just want to make sure that we have a positive impact on the environment while also having a positive impact on the customers. And one thing doesn’t have to be excluded by doing the other. We really want to show that luxury or beauty can go hand in hand with sustainability,” Nadja said.
The largest ring in the Sea Life Collection carries as many as 150 Swarovski crystals, which have no lead or cadmium in it. Nadja added that the metal used is brass and palladium plated; free of chemicals that might create rashes or be harmful to the consumer.
This collection is just one of many that the company has embarked on to raise awareness about environmental issues around the world and Nadja told SEARCHLIGHT that they will continue to do more.
“It’s unbelievable how the loss of a certain species affects the biodiversity and people just don’t realise that. We just want to raise awareness of these issues, because it will change the consumption patterns of the consumer and that’s the ultimate goal we want to achieve. Sometimes we can’t rely only on governments to put in certain rules and regulations, but we can influence the buying decision of the customer,” she said.
Louise Mitchell, the executive director of the SVGEF, told SEARCHLIGHT that the fund was “absolutely thrilled” about the collaboration as it was the first time that the entity has had an international partnership.
For the past two years, the killing of all marine turtles in SVG has been outlawed. The Hawksbill sea turtle is one species that is featured in the collection as it is critically endangered.
Through collaboration with the government, the SVGEF was part of a national sea turtle program which involved training persons to monitor turtles and record data of their nesting patterns, and to learn to protect their nesting habitats.
Mitchell also noted that turtle fishers were financially compensated by the Fund working together with the Fisheries Department for surrendering their nets and in so doing symbolizing their compliance with the new legislation protecting turtles.
“The idea behind compensating turtle fishers is that we want people to understand that the fund is community centred and we believe that you have to ensure that the custodians of the environment are also being considered and they always made to be a part of it because without the community support for these projects, they would not be sustainable in the long run,” she said.
The SVGEF is advocating also for the total protection of the Union Island gecko, which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has classified as critically endangered, which means it is in danger of being lost forever.
The executive director said that the Union Island gecko is found only in one place in the entire world; the Chatham Forest of the southern Grenadine island. The Fund works together with Fauna and Flora International, the Forestry Department and the Union Island Environmental Attackers to protect this special lizard which has become the symbol of conservation on the island.
The critically endangered species sports an array of colours and is considered so beautiful and rare that it has been captured and sold to international exotic pet collectors for as much as US$1200, the illegal pet trade being the greatest threat to its survival.
Mitchell said that the government has applied for the gecko to be listed as a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Such listing would go a long way in preventing the illegal trade.
“The final species that this collection focuses on is the parrot fish. Now the parrot fish doesn’t have any protection right now, but the Fund will be launching a campaign in the next few months to raise awareness about the importance of the parrot fish. The population of the parrot fish has been severely depleted over time because it used to be one of the most popular fish for beach cook ups,” Mitchell said. However, as a result of overfishing, it is extremely difficult to find a parrot fish that is not a juvenile.
This fish is extremely important to the ecosystem as it cleans the reefs by eating the algae that can grow over and cover the coral and cause the reefs to die. And after eating, the parrot fish excretes fine white sand — up to 700 pounds of sand each year — making them critical to having healthy coral reefs and beaches.
“What’s exciting about it is that this collection would put not just the name of the Fund on the international stage, but it will put the name of St Vincent out there as a place in the world where people care about protecting endangered and threatened species,” she said. “…we think St Vincent is going to get great recognition from the Sea Life Collection of Swarovski because Swarovski has such a powerful international brand and when people read about these amazing creatures that we have, they will think wow, that’s a place with rich biodiversity, maybe we need to go there.”
The SVGEF has distributed over $670,000.00 in project grants to date. For information on obtaining grants from the Fund, go to www.svgef.org
The pieces in the Sea Life collection may also be purchased at the Atelier Swarovski website: atelierswarovski.com.