Marion Branellec de Guzman talks about ethical pearl farming, carrying on a four-decade-old jewelry business, and preserving the national gem
Jewelmer ’s MARION BRANELLEC de Guzman talks about ethical pearl farming, carrying on a 40-year-old jewelry business, and preserving the national gem
Living in Palawan and calling its pristine white sand beaches, marine life-rich clear waters, majestic rock formations, must-explore secret coves, beautiful lakes and subterranean rivers, and junglefilled mountains as home is a dream for many. Marion Branellec-De Guzman has lived this dream as a kid.
Marion is the daughter of Jacques Branellec, the French perliculture specialist who co-founded the international luxury jewelry brand Jewelmer with Manuel Cojuangco. She clearly remembers the breathtaking sights in and around the pearl farm her father worked at.
“As a child, I had the opportunity to experience the beauty of our islands and oceans, specifically Palawan,” she says. “[My siblings] and I occupied ourselves with simple pleasures such as playing among the trees and swimming in the sea. We didn’t need gadgets or the television for entertainment.”
The site is where the brand pioneered the production of the lustrous South Sea golden pearls.
THE ART OF PEARL FARMING
The process itself can be painstaking and the labor involved, intensive. It requires the participation of at least 1,000 creative and hardworking individuals to help bring every pearl to life. The brand’s approach is uniquely sustainable, too, which is why the gem’s journey from being cultured in an oyster in the ocean to the pearl farmer finally harvesting it takes quite a while.
“It takes 377 steps and up to five years to produce a golden South Sea pearl. Every step must be done with loving care or it can have irreversible effects on the pearl,” Marion explains. “We are non-extractive, meaning we are not taking from the ocean. Instead we are nurturing oysters and the entire ecosystem they thrive in.”
The catch is that even after such a long and elaborate pursuit, there’s a chance that the final result may not be the perfect golden pearl. Marion likens the process to the birth of a child where “the final result is still a miracle” and that “Mother Nature has the final say on whether we will be rewarded [or not].”
It is this first-hand experience of living in harmony with nature, whether on the daily or in business, that ultimately taught Marion the importance of sustainability and continuing to practice it.
CONTINUING THE LEGACY
Marion’s parents have always taught her the value of self-reliance and independence. This is why even with a successful family business, she saw to it to find a job and support herself after graduation. That led her to Australia, where she worked as a specialist account manager for advertising, marketing, and public relations agency Ogilvy for several years.
When personal circumstances brought her back home, she did not expect that it would also be the beginning of her involvement in the brand. What started as an invite to do some consulting in the company became the gateway to officially joining the team. The choice to contribute to the family business and coming home, she says, felt natural.
“Wedoourbest tobringthevalues thatwehave athometowork— passion,hardwork, andgratitude”