HomeGuideTahitian pearls full of symbolism

Tahitian pearls full of symbolism

The pearl of Tahiti, reigns in the southern seas.

Famous throughout the world for their rarity, brilliance and value, Tahiti’s black pearls reaffirm themselves as true sovereigns of the southern seas. They are known as black pearls or Tahitian pearls.

The black pearl comes from French Polynesia and receives the name of Pearl of Tahiti, although it is not cultivated precisely on the largest island of the famous archipelago, it is there where the pearls are produced by the farms scattered throughout the área.

Initially inhabitants themselves dived lung and down to find oysters , mollusc large , as measured 11 to 13 centimeters approximately and can weigh up to 5½ kilos. Inside were the coveted pearls, which were considered a treasure .

This was the reason why explorers from the west who went in search of riches to this part of the world called it the Queen of pearls.

They were a symbol of purity and virtue, very valued in the Middle East and Asia, being one of the first jewelry that men use to decorate their body.

When French merchants settled and began living in French Polynesia in the 19th century, the trade in these pearls flows west.

As a consequence of the settlement and trade very quick mind began to vanish this type of oysters, unique in the world that give black pearls.

But today, man found a way to make them return, if their production is done in crops, although in a natural way.

More than half a century ago they began to be produced by the knowledge learned from the Japanese, the legacy of Kokichi Mikimoto’s cultured pearls.

We add a curious fact, although Tahiti is also famous for black pearls, but you should know that not all pearls produced are black.

Tahitian pearls can also be green, blue, gold, silver, violet until they reach the so-called anthracite black, the most coveted by all along with rainbow pearls and known as “fly wing” with a greenish iridescence.

Quality of the black pearl, how to evaluate it?

How to recognize a pearl quality? According to an expert, it depends on three factors: the size that will be determined by the time the mollusk has been and may have generated the mother-of-pearl layer, due to its shape, depending on the regularity and the ability to reflect light and the color.

Black pearl oysters

Tahitian pearls are present in only two types of oysters : the black-lipped oyster , Pinctada margaritifera and the Panamic mother-of-pearl, Pinctada mazatlanica, in both cases belonging to the group of mother-of-pearls.

And despite the fact that the pearl is the main protagonist in the market, the shell can also be reused for any craft job, after polishing the result is really beautiful.

It should be added that due to this activity the species was about to become extinct, due to overexploitation .
One thing leads to another.

Also its low presence increases demand. The oysters grow pearls, especially Pinctada Margaritífera black lips , generally have a lower performance and level of survival.

Unique species

Black pearls can be of different sizes, but very large ones are used to adorn opulent jewelry, such as crown jewelery. An example of this is the Russian crowns that wear a very large one.

To understand its rarity from another point of view, I add another interesting fact: for each Tahitian pearl of a dignified size or to appear in a crown , you can obtain about 15,000 traditional white pearls.

It is clear or the fact, the scarcer, the more precious.

There are other examples that can help you understand the rare beauty and value of this unique species.

Of the 100 grafted oysters, about 30 do not resist manipulation and another 25 to 30 reject the core. Of the remaining 40, only 5 will produce perfect pearls.

The possibilities are closed so much that it represents 2% of the total of oysters cultivated and for this reason it is logical that the lowest average cost that we find of a pearl is around 60 euros.

Finally I say that to obtainit, it is needed to open a lot of oysters, a fact that makes the black pearl a natural product much more unique.

How is the Black Pearl formed?

The pearl is formed because a very small foreign body enters the oyster and the instant reaction of the mollusk is to isolate the body.

Thus, little by little, it generates a thin film around it to prevent the external agent from being in contact with the living being. It is nothing more than a survival reaction, but this is how the pearl is formed from the mother of pearl layers.

The cultivation in the so-called farms is carried out in warm salty waters. The oyster is of the pinctada margaritifera type and its cultivation takes place between two and three years, the size can be 14 millimeters.

But as it is an induced process, to get the oyster to form the pearl, you have to introduce a substance to the oyster and it alone follows its natural procedure, forms the nacre on it.

The shapes are very varied, when success is achieved in cultivation, round, knob-shaped or so-called baroque pearls appear , full of colors, exclusive and unique.


Black pearls can have various shapes, including round, semi-round, asymmetric or fancy or striated because their surface shows signs of growth and is not completely smooth.

But in general it is usually semi-round, those that are completely round are a property of this area of Polynesia, each year only about 8% of round pearls are obtained.

It also comes in various forms: symmetrical sphericals that include round and semi-round ones; the symmetrical ones that are drops or pears, oval, buttons and semi-baroque.

Finally the asymmetrical ones, this group includes the baroque ones.

Symmetrical spheres:

– Round (R): They are the most sought after and the most expensive pearls
– Semi-round (SR): They are slightly flattened or elongated and it is good to clarify that during assembly, the SR cords appear to be round.


– Drops / Pears (DR): They have a wider end than the other with a shape that adapts very well to pendants and earrings.
– Ovales (OV): these pearls are more narrows at the ends than in the middle.
– Buttons (BT): Pearls to plast to one or both sides.
– Semibarroco (SB): They appear in or after shapes, not round, but with an axis of symmetry.


– Barroco (BA): It does not have a specific shape, they are used for necklaces and bracelets.

Pearls of these different shapes can have one or more beads or grooves around their surface , these are known as ringed pearls.


Depending on how long the pearl takes to form and the size of the implanted nucleus, black pearls can reach a diameter from 8 to 20 mm. When it reaches a diameter greater than 16 mm it is considered an extraordinary organic gem.


The culture of Tahitian pearls takes between two and three years and can be inserted up to three cores each time, is a long process that pays off to obtain as the result these precious pearls.

They were cultivated the first time in 1961 in a lagoon on the island of Bora-Bora with grafting techniques from Japan.

A 100 percent satisfactory experiment and for this reason, it was decided to extend this technique to obtain pearls from oysters, to Manihi, Marutea and Mangareva , several islands of the Tuamotu archipelago , northeast of Tahiti.

Due to the quality of the product obtained with the culture, the Tahiti pearl or black pearl five years later, in 1976, obtained the designation of origin from the Gemological Institute of America .

In addition, it was awarded the recognition of the largest body related to jewelry and silverwork.

The colors of the Tahitian pearl

Tahitian black pearls are famous because they are very rare in nature and also much more difficult to find than other lighter colored pearls such as champagne, cream or white.

But a mandatory clarification is needed because although black pearls are called, there are actually not the black pearls as such.

This definition is used to refer to those in Tahiti that are darker, with a very particular dark iridescence.

They also appear in a wide variety of colors without reaching pure black, they appear in silver gray, Tahiti gray or pearl gray or in a deep dark blue.

The typical Tahiti gray, one of the most notable colors, owes its name to the greenish-gray luster of these pearls.

Blue tones, on the other hand, can be achieved in Akoya pearls, a deep blue tone without having to be treated later.

Classification of Tahitian pearls

The classification of Tahitian pearls takes into account the quality of the pearl’s surface and its luster. A flawless surface is a completely smooth surface.

An excellent shine corresponds to a very bright pearl or to the total reflection of light, it is like a mirror effect. Instead, a low gloss corresponds to a matte, low gloss pearl. Surface imperfections can be punctures, grooves, or bumps.

French Polynesia establishes several categories to define pearls. They are the perfect category and A, B, C, D and E.

The perfect category or top gem is a flawless pearl with excellent shine. Category A is the pearl with slight concentrated imperfections and a very good shine.

The category B is applied to the pearl with slight imperfections more but having a clean and good surface gloss. Category C is the pearl with obvious slight and deep imperfections, with a relatively clean surface and medium shine.

The category D includes pearl with slight imperfections in a deep and surface gloss lower. And category E is the one that includes the pearl that does not belong to the categories mentioned before.

It is interesting to tell you that E category did not exist before the national law on 18 July 2017.

The included in this category are considered junk and could not be exported , were destroyed during checks in the pearl culture department, which is no longer the case today.
As a pre-export requirement, pearls were X-ray checked at controls.

Those with a mother-of-pearl layer less than 8 millimeters were destroyed.

This provision has not been renewed.

Sometimes another pearl classification system is used , the one corresponding to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) called AAA-A system.

In this system, quality AAA is equivalent to quality A of the Tahiti system, while grades A and AA correspond to quality C of the Tahiti system.

They are further classified by size.

They are measured in millimeters, rounded to the nearest unit. If the beads are 9 millimeters in diameter, it is a pearl 9.

There are those of medium size , between 8 and 10 mm . Below 8 millimeters are small pearls . Pearls that are 10 to 12 millimeters in diameter are quite common.

How is the thickness of the mother of pearl layer measured ?

The thickness of the pearl’s mother-of-pearl layer is measured by x-ray. Before it was mandatory, now it is optional and is subject to the payment of a fee. The request can be made at the Department of Culture of the Pearl of French Polynesia.

The Maridaje or assortment

Making Pearl reach the ideal look for making jewel is a work extensive and thorough . First you need to find pearls with colors that are matching and having similar sizes.

Only a difference between 0.1 and 0.2 millimeters is acceptable because beyond that, the difference is very visible.

Another important aspect is that a 12-meter pearl will have a lower quality than one of 8, therefore, large pearls are the rarest. A pearl 12 reaches exorbitant prices and a round of 16 with D quality exceeds a thousand euros.

A 12 but quality B is worth around ten thousand euros. The price also depends on the color of the iridescence or of the way.

The pearl of Tahiti and the economy in French Polynesia

The black pearl is one of the main sources of income for the economy of French Polynesia , after the service sector, it generates many jobs in a long and minute process or that goes from the collection of the oyster embryo, the grafting, hanging, observation and care, until extraction, approximately 18 months.

The Tahitian Pearl in jewelry

Black pearls are highly valued in jewelry , with earrings being preferred. The necklaces require extreme care from the jeweler.

How to care for a Tahitian pearl?

Black pearls are very delicate. It is recommended that when stored, they do not rub with other jewelry , they can be stored in a cotton bag. To clean them, use a little detergent diluted in water, rub gently with a cloth and dry gently.

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