Tahiti and French Polynesia are known as the commercial hub for the Black Tahitian Pearl, produced by the Black-lipped Oyster.
These exquisite pearls can be found both naturally and cultured, although the natural ones are extremely rare today.
As buyers may not expect, colours are rarely jet black, they are more commonly grey, silver and greenish black. In saying that, there are jet black pearls around – however they are extremely rare and often incredibly expensive.
What to look for when buying Black Pearls
When buying pearls in Tahiti, it is always best to shop around and know what classifies a good quality pearl. There are 4 factors you must look at if you want quality, these are:
Thickness of Nacre – obviously the thicker the nacre the longer life of the pearl. Ideally you would want a nacre no less than 0.8mm;
The surface of the pearl – obviously the better the luster and the less flaws the pearl has the higher the grade. Grade A is the best quality and most expensive. If you are looking for quality, don’t drop below a grade B. Something to note is the thicker the nacre the higher the pearls luster;
The size of the pearl is also a determining factor in price. Most pearls are between 8mm to 14mm, anything above this is rare;
Shape determines the value of the pearl as well. When the pearl is perfectly round, it will be more expensive. Perfectly round pearls are rare though and account for less than 10% of pearls produced annually.
Obviously there are fake pearls out there so buyers need to be aware of the above and the difference between fakes and the real thing. Real Tahitian pearls have overtones to their colour, for example green, peacock, grey and blue hues to the surface colour – fakes are dull in colour. Real Tahitian pearls are also heavy to hold and cold to touch, quickly taking on your body temperature. When rubbed against the teeth they are gritty – fake ones are smooth and finally, if buying a predrilled pearl the hole will be smooth around the edge – fake pearls are bumpy around their hole.
Premier pearl producing areas in Tahiti
The area most renowned for pearl production in Tahiti is the Tuamotu archipelago, the atoll lagoons here are ideal for production due to the lack of tides and very little current.
The largest oyster farm of Gauguin's Pearl has been operation for 15 years and is known for its quality of pearl. There also a few other oyster farms around, all carry out tours and will give guidance on picking a good pearl.
The best pearl markets in Tahiti
When it comes to markets, the best market would be The Pearl Market in Papeete, on the island of Tahiti. The pearls here are by no means cheap, but take a walk around and window shop, get a feel for what is on offer and compare prices.
As with any tourist destination, there are boutiques and shops all over the place selling pearls. Catering to tourists these places, as you would expect, are often expensive. Head out to the oyster farms or the pearl market at Papeete for the best prices.grab your card and go - discover Tahiti
Hero Image "Pearl Farm" - flickr: clesenne
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