Tahitian South Sea
Tahitian South Sea Pearls
Tahitian South Sea cultured pearls are native to the French Polynesian area. Exotic South Sea pearls from the Black-lipped oyster, Pinctada margaritifera, are more commonly known as Tahitian South Sea pearls. These pearls are often referred to as black but have a remarkable colour range that covers the spectrum from light, creamy white and grey, to regal greens, aubergines and deep blacks. Tahitian South Sea pearls are relative newcomers to the pearl world. Unlike the more common pearl types, Tahitian South Sea pearls typically have a naturally dark body colour. These pearls have become some of the most sought-after, expensive pearls in the world. Due to their vast colour variations, matching these pearls for a single strand is an enormous task often requiring thousands of loose pearls.
Tahitian South Sea pearls are considered to be the second most valuable commercially farmed pearls in the world. These pearls are produced by the large Black-lipped oyster which is the only mollusk to produce naturally black pearls. Unlike Black Freshwater and Black Akoya pearls which have been irradiated or dyed, Tahitian South Seas come by their dark colour naturally. Tahitian South Sea pearls are bead-nucleated but, unlike Akoya pearls, the nacre is typically very thick. The thinnest nacre allowed by French Polynesian law for export is .8mm.
Tahitian South Sea pearls are the only pearls to have a full colour spectrum. Black-lipped oysters have a rainbow-like mantle which exhibits many natural colours. Several factors influence the colour variation among Tahitian South Sea pearls as no two Pinctada margaritifera individuals are exactly alike. The quality and colour of the nacreous layers of the Black-lipped shells differ as does the implanted mantle tissue which forms the pearl sac and then secretes the nacre that makes the pearl.
Tahitian South Sea pearls are bead nucleated which is why so many of them are round, or near round, with other shapes such as drops, baroques and circled also commonly found in the harvest. These pearls have an average size of 9mm to 14mm but some rare gems, larger than 20mm, have been found. Tahitian South Sea pearls are farmed in French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, the Micronesian Islands and, to some extent, in Japan, Thailand and The Philippines. Although Tahitian pearls carry the name of the famous Tahiti Island they do not come from Tahiti. Tahiti is the main trading post for islands that produce Tahitian South Sea pearls.