Tahitian pearls, symbols of luxury and perfection, are long sought for their exceptional beauty and value. Tahitian pearls are valued as queen of pearls and creation of the sea. Tahitian pearls are named after the tropical island of Tahiti. Tahiti’s black lipped oysters yield a unique array of iridescent black, gray and greenish black pearls.
Nowadays, Tahitian pearl farming has spread over thousands of miles around this island. Due to Tahiti’s government promotion, demand for black Tahitian pearls rise 5-10% a year.
There are six factors determine Tahitian pearl quality: luster, nacre thickness, surface, color, size, shape.
Nacre thickness is the most important factor when measuring Tahitian pearl quality. It determines how long the beauty of Tahitian pearls will last. Tahitian pearls with thick nacre will last a life time, while Tahitian pearls with thin nacre won’t last long, their nacre will wear off over time.
French Polynesia Government has set up a minimum nacre thickness of 0.8mm for Tahitian pearls. Tahitian pearls with less than 0.8mm nacre thickness are prohibited from exporting.
There are four grades to rate the surface quality of Tahitian pearls: A, B, C, D. A quality Tahitian pearls are the highest quality and they are the most valuable.
A Quality: Tahitian pearls with very high luster and clean surface (one to a few slight flaws are distributed over less than 10% of the pearl surface)
B Quality: Tahitian pearls with medium to high luster and slight surface imperfection (some slight flaws are distributed over 30% of the pearl surface)
C Quality: Tahitian pearls with medium luster and medium surface imperfection (some slight flaws are distributed over 60% of the pearl surface.
D Quality: Tahitian pearls are heavily spotted (many slight flaws or several deep flaws are distributed over 60% of the pearl surface) Luster
Luster is the best expression of a pearl’s beauty. It is the quality of the light reflections from the pearl’s surface. Luster measures the pearl surface shininess. High quality Tahitian pearls have high luster and mirror-like finish. Thick nacre results in high luster. Tahitian pearls with sharp and intense light reflection have high luster and a metal-like steely look.
Most common sizes for Tahitian pearls range from 8mm to 14mm. Some Tahitian pearls are 16mm and very rarely over 18mm. The largest Tahitian pearl in the world is 21mm for a round pearl and 25mm for a semi-round pearl. The larger the pearls, the more valuable the pearls are.
Tahitian pearls have the following shapes:
Ringed or circled.
Among all shapes, round is the most desirable and valuable. Other shapes may have special appeal to jewelry artists. Round pearls are almost perfect spheres. Round Tahitian pearls are rare and the production rate only accounts for 5-10% of Tahitian pearls produced each year. Semi-round pearls are nearly round. Semi-baroque pearls are subdivided into four shapes: drop, button, pear and oval. Baroque pearls are described as irregular shapes.
Black-lipped oysters produce the natural black color of Tahitian pearls. Although Tahitian Pearls are famous for their black natural color, they have a wide range of colors including black, grey, blue, green and brown. These colors are referred as body color. Body colors are enhanced by at least one overtone colors. Overtone colors include blue, gold, silver, pink and reddish purple. Different names are given to a combination of overtone and body colors. Peacock: greenish black
Pistachio: greenish gray
Cherry: purplish black
Champagne: yellowish gray
Lavender: bluish black
Tahitian gold: golden black
Pigeon grey: purplish gray
Moon grey: pale gray.
Among these colors, peacock and Pistachio are the most popular colors. Tahitian pearls with peacock and pistachio colors have a higher value than pearls with other colors. Buying Tahitian Pearls