Lionfish, Cayman’s marine nemesis, have no natural predators. They are voracious eaters of juvenile reef fish, threatening the ecosystem. They multiply at an alarming rate, with each female lionfish capable of releasing two million eggs per year.
To defend against the invasive species, some suggest that people should eat them to beat them, but now they can also wear them as a fashion statement.
Kelly Reineking, an avid diver and environmentalist, is now also diving into the depths of jewellery making. Passionate about reef preservation, Kelly takes part in various marine conservation initiatives, including the Cayman United Lionfish League – better known as CULL – whose members catch lionfish and sell them to restaurants for consumption. Appreciating the lionfish’s beauty, Kelly decided to use its fins and spines to make jewellery.
“They are beautiful fish with vibrant colours, each with unique markings,” she says. “They’re perfect for jewellery making.”
Now seven months in, the jewellery-making venture has turned into a full-time business called Mermaid’s Touch.
To produce the jewellery, Kelly uses resin and varnish to preserve the lionfish and intensify their natural beauty. The fish spines and fins also undergo a laborious process that includes triple rinsing and drying out over two to three days to ensure they are odorless. Everything is then pieced together right at her home.
“My garage smells like low tide on a hot day and my husband asks when we will use the dining table for eating again,” Kelly jokes.
In addition to lionfish jewellery such as necklaces, earrings, cufflinks, barettes and tie clips, she also makes bottle openers, money clips and key rings.
Kelly sells her products most Wednesdays from 12–7pm at the Camana Bay Farmers & Artisans Market. In addition, her products are sold at Pure Art, Cayman Turtle Centre, VIVO Restaurant and Lobster Pot Divers.