Tahitian pearls, often called "Black Pearls", are found in the warm, turquoise-colored lagoons of French Polynesia on the South Seas. Their opalescent black hue, shimmering with peacock green, grey and purple overtones, makes a sensual, smoldering statement in jewelry designs for both men and women. Natural coloration yields shades of grey to black. Consistency of color tone is highly desirable with peacock tones demanding the highest prices.
The Pinctada margaritifera, or "black lipped" oyster is a giant tropical mollusk that can live for 30 years in the wild, can weigh up to 100 pounds and can grow to reach over 12 inches in diameter. In the 19th century, free-diving Polynesians braved sharks, depths of up to 130 feet, and the physiological challenges of deep water diving to harvest these valuable mollusks. Although only one in 15,000 oysters produced a natural pearl, the inner shell was so popular with the European button industry that the resource was eventually devastated.
Today, a complex cultivation process has resurrected the pearl industry in French Polynesia. The government has strict regulations to assure pearl quality. Pearls are now farmed throughout French Polynesia, Northern Australia, and the Marshall, Cook, and Solomon Islands.
Tahitian pearls are usually found in sizes from 8.0 mm to 13.0 mm; sizes up to and exceeding 20.0 mm are sometimes discovered, but are quite rare and highly prized. Tahitian pearls, like their South Sea cousins, come in a variety of shapes. As with South Sea pearls, nacre quality is the defining measure of quality and value.
Single pearls set in cuff links, on a cord, or as a tie stud make a great gift for men who seek a sophisticated look with natural appeal. For women of all ages, few gems offer greater drama than strands of Tahitian pearls, dynamic for daytime or evening wear. Used individually or in combination with white or golden pearls, black pearls create superbly fashionable jewelry that with proper care, will last for generations.