Posted by James Davey

Long regarded as symbols of luxury and perfection, Tahitian Black Pearls are noted for their exceptional beauty and perfection. Legend has it that they represent ‘hope in man’s wounded heart’

Known as the Queen of Pearls and named after the tropical island of Tahiti, they come from the black lipped oyster found in the French Polynesian waters and only pearls from this oyster can carry the designation of Tahitian Black Pearl.

More expensive than white pearls, because the black lipped oyster is rarer and farming more delicate, they are grown for a minimum of two years compared with eight months for white pearls.

Quality is determined by six factors; size, shape colour, lustre, smoothness and nacre. Large round pearls with a high lustre, smooth surface and peacock and pistachio overtones are the most valued and costly.

Size matters. The larger the pearl the scarcer it is and sizes range from 8mm to 14 mm diameter. Some can be as large as 16mm or 18mm but these are rare.

Tahitian Black Pearls come in various shapes; the most valuable and prized are round, almost perfect spheres which account for 5-10% of all Tahitian Black Pearls produced in a year. Semi-round, Baroque, Semi-Baroque and Circle, though popular and attractive, are less valuable.

Though famous for their natural black colour, they have a wide range of tones including grey, blue-green and brown. The darker the pearl the more valuable it is and  the finest pearls have a peacock green overtone.

Lustre is the best expression of the Tahitian Black Pearl’s beauty. It is the quality of the light reflections from the pearl’s surface and how it seems to glow from within.

The more flawless the pearl, the higher the value, but only one oyster in a million may produce a perfect flawless pearl. As they are created in the ocean by a wild oyster, nature leaves its mark and these marks, or spotting, are part of every pearl.

The thickness of the nacre affects the durability of the pearl’s beauty, and those with a thick nacre will last a lifetime.

The development of the cultured pearl industry has helped the Polynesian economy. The popularity and desirability of Tahitian Black Pearls coupled with better production methods has brought higher employment to the islands in what had been a declining ‘agriculture’ sector and the islanders involved with pearl farming are enjoying improved living standards.