The Tahitian Pearls

One thing to know about Tahitian Black Pearls is that they are NOT Tahitian, and they are NOT exclusively Black. Indeed, the pearl adventure in Polynesia began back in the late 60’s with knowledge from Japanese experts, namely Mikimoto, the father of All Cultured Pearls. At the time I guess they wanted to distinguish this new product from the White Akoya Pearls in Japan and called them Black Pearls. Also, the first Island to produce “Tahitians” was Manihi, which is in the Tuamotu Archipelago, far far away from Tahiti, the capital Island of Polynesia.
Tahitian Pearls on the sand
Of note, Polynesia consist of 122 Islands spread over an area larger than all of Europe. Each region of Islands, there are five, have their own language, culture and beliefs albeit still related to each other. “Tahitian” Pearls are mainly produced in the Tuamotu Archipelago, some in the leeward islands like Tahaa and Raiatea, and the Gambiers, the southern tip of Polynesia. In such an expanse of blue, each Atoll, or Island has its own particularity.
©TAHITI TOURISME / Pile Poil Design

It is easy to regroup all pearls under the banner of “Tahitians”, but really each place has its own endemic variant of the Pinctada Margaritifera.

Also, the topography, geographic location or lagoon depth of the place greatly influences the growth patterns and quality of the oyster. As a result, the pearls from one place to the next can vary enormously. Some places can have super-huge pearls, others tiny, some have blues, ochre, and gold, whereas others have greens or peacocks and even whites.

That being said, we will retain the nomenclature and stick with “Tahitian Black Pearls” or “Tahitian Pearls”.

There is a unique pearl for every unique character out there. Indeed, Tahitian pearls come in all sizes, generally between 5mm to 22mm, all shapes, colors and flavors. It is good to distinguish though nucleated pearls from Keishi. Keishi is kind of a by-product of the culturing process. They emerge when the host oyster rejects the nuclei and forms a “pearl” nonetheless, with pure mother-of-pearl and usually in odd baroque shapes. You can have tiny tiny Keishi and huge Keishi. The larger ones can take up to 5-6 years to produce, with 12-14 year old oysters. That’s old in oyster-years!