Exploring Tahitian Black South Sea Pearls
The famous “Tahitian Pearls” also known as Black South Sea pearls are the most celebrated natural black pearls found in the world and are cultivated in French Polynesia, the Cook and Micronesian Islands. Tahitian pearls are considered to be the second most valuable commercially farmed pearls in the world.
The Black South Sea pearl is produced by the saltwater black lipped oyster, Pinctada margaritifera. This oyster is much larger than the Japanese oyster up to 30 centimetres or more in diameter. It is a wild oyster species and is rare. All export quality Tahitian pearls must have a minimum nacre thickness of 0.8mm. Only one pearl is grown per oyster therefore the Black South Sea Pearl commands a high price.
Black South Sea pearls occur naturally in a remarkable range of colours from light grey to deep black with varying overtones of peacock, green, blue, and aubergine. Black pearls are rare and should not be confused with artificially coloured pearls. Black lipped oysters have a rainbow like mantle which exhibits many natural colours. Due to the vast colour range, matching these pearls into a finished strand is an enormous task requiring thousands of loose pearls to create a single strand.
Only 5% of Black South Sea pearls produced have a perfectly spherical shape. Five basic shapes are defined at production; round – a perfectly round sphere, near round – very slightly imperfect shape, drop – teardrop, oval, egg shaped, baroque – irregular or free formed in shape with no symmetry, circle – parallel bands or rings around the pearl circumference.
Black South Sea pearls start at 7.0mm diameter. The average size is 9.0mm-14.0mm. Pearls over 16.0mm in size are considered to be very rare.
|French Polynesia – Tahiti, Cook and Micronesian Islands
|Black lipped oyster
|7.0mm – 16.0mm; Average size 9.0mm – 14.0mm
|Aubergine, green, peacock, peacock blue, grey, black
|Round, near round, drop, baroque, circle