Exotic black pearls from French Polynesia first started to appear on the market in the 1960’s, following the same joint venture model as with Australian White South Sea Pearls.
Very often known as Tahitian Pearls, the amazing and beautiful tonal varieties are due to the dark nacre
secreted by the oyster Pinctade Margaritifera;commonly known as the “Black Lip”.This large oyster is native to the chemically rich volcanic waters around French Polynesia.
The Pearls are not actually cultured on the Island of Tahiti itself,but on farms scattered across French Polynesia, covering an area roughly the size of Europe. These farms are sited in unbelievably blue atolls, again originally using Japanese Grafters and technology. It is said that a top Grafter can earn as much as $500,000 U.S. a year – such is the skill associated with pearl culturing.
French Polynesian the fragmented islands that make up French Polynesia.
The Tuamotu group probably has the largest number of farms, followed by the Gambier.
The king of the Tahitian pearl producers is undoubtedly Robert Wan, who produces excellent Pearls together with his son Bruno principally on Marutea Sud in the Gambier group,but also on other islands in different groups.
Big trade buyers of Tahitian Pearls are invited to auctions, mainly held in Hong Kong or Kobe. These auctions often take place in hotel conference rooms under tight security,where buyers get the chance to inspect the offered lots before making sealed bids. The goods are often mixed size,and sometimes mixed grades and can weigh easily in excess of 5 kilos and comprise thousands of pieces.
Initially Tahitian pearls were, as with the white South Sea Pearls, affordable only by the rich and famous. Recently however, due to increases in production, Tahitian Pearls have become more accessible to a wider audience.
With the associations of pristine crystal blue lagoons, white sand and palm trees, surely few products can compare with the fabulous exotic imagery conjured by Tahitian Pearls.
Oyster: The Black Lip (Pinctada Margaritifera)
Shapes: Round, Baroque, Drop, Keshi, Bouton
Sizes: 7 to18mm
Colours: All shades of black and grey through to green hues, (Pistachio), blue hues, aubergine hues, bronze hues, gold, pink and silvery white.
Locations: French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and Australia.