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The Rikitea Bribe

Posted by Kevin Canning on 5/17/2016 to News
Rikitea Tahitian Pearl Bribe

Prior to the March 2016 gem show, I had a collector ask me to look for a very special strand of Peacock Tahitians. I didn’t quite find what she was looking for(at the right price) and informed her we struck out.

Not wanting to give up, I contacted a friend in Rikitea who is part of the GIE Poe O Rikitea. A pearl farming co-op of 80 small pearl farms in the Gambier Islands, banding together to market their exceptional Tahitian pearls.

Gambier Islands Map
Source: : LA TIMES: Jewels of the sea from French Polynesia's Gambier Islands

Most of these farms only produce a small amount of pearls per year, which are generally sold via small auctions like this. But the pearls they DO produce are widely known throughout French Polynesia for their exceptional color and luster.

Tahitian pearl harvest

I lamented about how the goods we saw in Hong Kong were either heavily blemished or over-priced.  It shouldn’t be so hard to find just one exceptional strand of Peacock Tahitians(at a reasonable price that is).

As a favor, he offered to personally match me a strand from "loose grade*” pearls. It would be combination of pearls cherry picked from many farms, before they are processed for auction.

*Loose Grade refers to pearls that are deemed by processors as too high a quality to use for strands and are sold as loose lots, intended for use as rings, earrings or pendants. The idea being that customers will tolerate more blemishing in a strand than a piece using a single pearl. That's fine in theory, but the collectors I service expect the very best. "Necklace Grade" was not going to cut it.

One week later a parcel arrived…

I opened the package and for a moment I was genuinely speechless.

39 undrilled AAA “Loose Grade” peacock Tahitians. Each pearl stunning, dripping in color, with sharp Akoya like luster.

fancy color Tahitian pearls

Below is a single pearl pulled from the above strand and photographed under natural light.

A single pearl like this would be an incredible find...

...A full strand made of pearls like this, should be impossible.

Single incredible peacock Pearl

Equally as surprising, my friend decided to include two "extra" strands on memo. One incredible forest green strand and another stunning peacock. What a show off!

fancy color Tahitian pearls

AAA Tahitian pearl necklaces with fancy colors

Natural light photos of the forest green strand:
forest green Tahitian pearls

fancy forest green Tahitian pearl necklace

Natural light photos of the 2nd peacock strand:

fancy peacock Tahitian pearl necklace

saturated peacock AAA Tahitian pearls

A Second Opinion…

I recently had lunch with a big shot pearl wholesaler here in NYC. We rarely do actual business together, which is why our friendship works.

Our relationship consists of me telling him his prices are too high, him complaining that I sell for too low, and often a few too many martinis when we cross paths buying pearls in Asia.

Never one to miss an opportunity to show up the big shot, I brought the three strands to get his opinion(i.e. brag).

After our second fish taco, I pulled them from my brief case…

fancy color Tahitian pearls

Peacock Tahitian Pearl Necklace of amazing quality

His eyes went big and he blurted:

“DUDE! Those are crazy! How much did you pay?”


I told him my price, and he shot me a look of disbelief.

“No really, how much?”

“Really” I replied and slid the invoice across the table.

He did it as a favor; I think he’s trying to bribe me for future business”

*note to farmers and producers, bribes like this DO work ;)

Before my friend could read me the riot act about how I was going sell them for too little, it's bad for the industry, yada yada…

The waitress came by and asked

“those are pretty, they some kind of bead?”


We had to laugh… Not everybody gets pearls.

Ok... So what are they worth?

I know some of you reading this will think I’m being dramatic. But those that truly understand Tahitian pearls will recognize how rare and special strands like these are. You simply won't find strands like these for sale in any retail setting.

If by some miracle you did find comparable strands, they would certainly run $15,000+. I can't say exactly what I'll retail them for, but I believe in passing the savings on to my readers. Even if it does ruffle some feathers in the industry.

For those interested in these strands, watch for my next email. I'll send out a link with more pics and pricing details.

And don't forget to leave a comment below and let me know what you think of these pearls.
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