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The Tahitian Pearl Buyer's Guide

Tahitian Pearls 101: Buying Guide      

Dark, colorful and mysterious, Tahitian pearls have been dazzling pearl lovers the world over for decades. Tahitian pearls are also a “niche” within the niche that is the pearl world, and many newcomers to pearls don’t know much about this pearl type. The Tahitian Pearl Buyer’s Guide was written for everyone with questions about these stunning black pearls. From a primer on sizes, colors and overtones to more in-depth information regarding pearl grading and farming, the experts at PearlsofJoy.com are here to fill you in on everything you need to know before you buy the pearl necklace of your dreams.

The Table of Contents below can take you directly to each section of information if you’re looking for a tailored approach, or you can read the entire Buyer’s Guide at your leisure.

Tahitian Pearl Basics

Tahitian pearls are known for being the world’s finest black pearls. These pearls dazzle with rich, colorful overtones and large, luxury tier sizes. They are an exotic choice for anyone looking for a statement pearl pendant, earrings or ultra-luxe Tahitian pearl necklace.

Tahitian Pearl Basics - What You Need to Know

5 Important Facts About Tahitian Pearls

  • Moderate to Large Sizes: Tahitian pearls are one of the larger pearl types out there, and generally range from 8-9m up to 15-16m and sometimes even larger.
  • Large Array of Shapes: Tahitian pearls offer a pearl shape for every personality and price point. From rare perfectly round pearls to smooth drop shapes and funky baroques dripping with character. The most sought after are the perfectly round pearls, followed by smooth drops and then baroques of all shapes.
  • Rainbow of Natural Colors: Tahitian pearls are world famous for their dark body colors in shades of charcoal gray to true black. But their most famous attribute is the rainbow of overtones that excite the eye. From colorful peacock to cool shades of tropical greens, blues, eggplant, silver and gold to rose and cherry … Tahitian pearls are guaranteed to offer something for everyone to enjoy.
  • Satin-Like to Mirror-Like Luster: Tahitian pearls have very thick nacre, and generally will feature softer, more satin-like luster. However, most high quality Tahitian pearls, particularly in the smaller size ranges, will display a sharper, highly reflective luster that comes closer to the “mirror-like” shine of the Japanese Akoya.  
  • Tahitian Pearl Type: Tahitian pearls are cultured in the saltwater oyster pinctada margaritifera black-lipped oyster. The p. margaritifera oyster is native to the French Polynesian island chain in the south Pacific Ocean, and can be found as far away as the Philippine islands.  

📢 Read More: How to Buy Pearls

Tahitian Pearl Value

Tahitian pearls are considered a “luxury” pearl type, and are generally more expensive than some other pearl types. That said though, Tahitian pearls have never been more affordable and in reach for pearl lovers of all stripes.

View the Value Chart below to see a snap shot of average price ranges for major jewelry design styles.

Tahitian Pearl Value

Tahitian Pearl Jewelry Value Chart

  • Tahitian Pearl Necklaces: $650 - $25,000+
  • Tahitian Pearl Earrings: $250 - $1,500+
  • Tahitian Pearl Pendants: $300 - $3,000+
  • Tahitian Pearl Jewelry Sets: $550 - $2,000+
  • Tahitian Pearl Rings: $550 - $2,500+


14K Gold Multicolor Tahitian Pearl Tincup Jasper Pendant

14K Gold Tahitian Pearl Tincup Jasper Pendant

8-10mm Dark Tahitian South Sea Circle-Baroque Pearl Necklace

Where Do Tahitian Pearls Come From?

Tahitian pearls are farmed throughout the tropical lagoons and atolls of the French Polynesian island chain that dots the south Pacific. The pearls are not actually farmed on the island of Tahiti, but Tahiti does act as the major export hub for all Tahitian pearls.

Tahitian Pearl Origins: French Polynesia

Tahitian pearls are grown within the pinctada margaritifera black-lipped saltwater oyster, which can reach the size of a dinner plate when fully grown. The black-lipped oyster is known for being particularly colorful and iridescent.

Tahitian Pearl Origins: Sorting Pearls at Auction

A large mixed lot of colorful Tahitian pearls on a sorting tray at auction overseas. Tahitian pearl auctions are usually held in Japan and Hong Kong.

Tahitian Pearl Origins: Tahitian Pearls at Export

The government of Tahiti is very protective of the Tahitian pearl farming community, and has enacted strict laws regarding quality control of all cultured Tahitian pearls leaving the country. The Tahitian government has long mandated that all Tahitian pearls must have a 0.8m depth of nacre to qualify for export.

Tahitian Pearl Origins: Kevin Canning at Tahitian Pearl Auction

President and founder of Pearls of Joy, Kevin Canning, sorting through loose Tahitian lots with a pearl farming collective representative at bi-annual the Hong Kong Jewellery Show.

Tahitian pearls are primarily cultured on small, family owned farms and collectives located throughout the islands of French Polynesia.

The farms are located in protected lagoons and atolls ensuring that the oysters are protected in warm, safe waters while they grow their pearls. The oysters are hung from long-lines and allowed to gently drift in the waters to filter feed while the pearls accumulate thicker layers of nacre inside.

The pearls are harvested after a period of 18-24 months, and are only scrubbed clean and polished afterwards.

For the vast majority of Tahitian pearls, the colors you see are totally natural and organically beautiful.

The pearls are then sent to Tahiti to be x-rayed to ensure that their nacre depth is thick enough to qualify for export (0.8m minimum thickness). The pearls are then generally sent to Hong Kong or Japan where they are sold at major shows and auctions.

Tahitian Pearl Grading

PearlsofJoy.com grades Tahitian pearls on the A – AAA Grading System, which easily converts from the A – D grading scales that Tahitian farmers use to evaluate their pearls. “A” represents the lowest commercially available grades, and “AAA” represents the very best of each harvest.

“GEM” quality Tahitian pearls are pulled from “AAA” quality harvests as being the finest of the class. Gem quality Tahitian pearls are rare, and expensive.  

Use the accordion below to click any grade and view a visual representation of each grade and a breakdown for the major value factors.

The “7 Value Factors” are used by jewelers and pearl specialists to gauge pearl quality, and then price them out. With Tahitian pearls, five factors are used to determine a pearl’s ranking on the A – AAA Grading Scale. Color is added, "shape" is dropped because any shape can still be graded as "AAA" as long as the other value factors are there.

Tahitian Pearl Grading Factors:

    • Surface Quality
    • Luster
    • Color
    • Matching
    • Nacre Thickness

Gem Quality

Tahitian Pearl Grading: Gem Quality Tahitians

Surface Quality: 95-99% Clean to the Eye. Necklace will appear clean to the eye upon casual inspection. Close inspection will reveal shallow inclusions less than 5% of total strand.

Luster: Excellent / Very Sharp. Detailed Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Color: Vivid, Saturated and Intense Overtones

Matching: Near-Perfect to Perfect for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: 0.8mm Minimum / Very Thick

AAA Quality

Tahitian Pearl Grading: AAA Quality Tahitians

Surface Quality: 90% Clean to the Eye. Close inspection will reveal shallow inclusions less than 5% of total strand, 1-2 Deep Inclusions Allowable.

Luster: Excellent to Very High / Moderately Detailed Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Color: Saturated and Very Bright to Intense Overtones

Matching: Very Good to Excellent Matching for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: 0.8mm Minimum Depth

AA+ Quality

Tahitian Pearl Grading: AA+ Quality Tahitians

Surface Quality: 75-80% Clean to the Eye. Casual nspection will reveal shallow inclusions less than 15% of total strand, 2-4 Deep Inclusions Allowable.

Luster: High to Very High / Good to Moderately Detailed Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Color: Moderately Saturated and Bright Overtones

Matching: Very Good Matching for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: 0.8mm Minimum Depth

AA Quality

Tahitian Pearl Grading: AA Quality Tahitians

Surface Quality: 65-75% Clean to the Eye. Casual inspection will reveal inclusions less than 35% of total strand, Moderate and Deep Inclusions Allowable.

Luster: Medium to High / Low to Moderately Detailed Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Color: Moderately Saturated and Bright Overtones

Matching: Good Matching for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: 0.8mm Minimum Depth

A Quality

Tahitian Pearl Grading: A Quality Tahitians

Surface Quality: 55-65% Clean to the Eye. Casual inspection will reveal inclusions less than 45% of total strand, Moderate and Deep Inclusions Allowable.

Luster: Low to Medium / Low to Moderately Detailed Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Color: Low to Moderately Saturated and Overtones

Matching: Fari to Good Matching for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: 0.8mm Minimum Depth

Tahitian Pearl Sizes

Tahitian Pearl Sizes Compared to US Nickel

Tahitian pearls range from moderate to large pearl sizes, and are considered one of the largest pearl types. Averages range from 8mm up through 16mm and even larger. The most common and popular size range is around 9-12mm. Anything larger and you'll see dramatic increases in price - but can be absolutely stunning if within your budget.


The Perfect Pair of Pearls

Fine Black Tahitian Pearls

The perfect pair of pearls ... Is it possible?

Our Tahitian Pearl Earrings are sleek, stylish and sharp. The high luster of these earrings makes them an instant favorite and the rich black, gray, silver, green, blue and purple hues make them easily versatile enough for everyday wear and formal wear.

Tahitian Pearl Shapes

The variety of pearl shapes that Tahitian pearls are available in can be astounding to jewelry shoppers not familiar with the more exotic pearl types. Perfectly round Tahitian pearls are the most rare, and account for a tiny fraction of each year’s harvests, with symmetrical drops, buttons, baroques, circles and more making up the majority of the pearls recovered each year.

Tahitian pearl shapes can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Round
  • Semi-Round
  • Drop
  • Baroque
  • Circle
  • Free-From Baroque
Pearl Shapes: Perfectly Round Tahitian Pearls

Perfectly round Tahitian pearls are the most rare of all pearl shapes, and the most valuable. Round Tahitians represent less than 10% of each harvest.

Pearl Shapes: Drop-Shape Tahitian Pearls

Smooth, symmetrical Tahitian drop shaped pearls can take the form of ovals, barrel shapes and classical tear drops. Because drop shapes have so much variation, sourcing perfectly matched drops for earrings or matched sets is harder, and fine pearl jewelry featuring perfectly matched, large drops can go for a premium price.

Pearl Shapes: Baroque Tahitian Pearls

Baroque Tahitian pearls account for somewhere around 40% of each Tahitian harvest. Baroque pearl necklaces can be wonderful in their variety and unique beauty, featuring circles, pointed tips and much, much more.

Pearl Shapes: Circled Baroque Tahitian Pearls

Circled baroque Tahitian pearls are a part of the baroque pearl shape family, but stand apart because these pearls are almost entirely ringed by concentric circles over the entire surface. Overtones can become heavily concentrated within the circles, giving these pearls a “painted” look.

Pearl Shapes: Freeform Baroque Tahitian Pearls

Freeform baroque pearls feature wonky, asymmetrical shapes … they are the freewheeling artistic aunts of all the pearl shapes. Often freeform baroques will feature pearl surfaces that look heavily textured, with uneven luster and overtone levels that can be very intense.

Why you might want to consider baroque pearls

Tahitian Pearl Colors

Tahitian Pearl Colors

This rainbow of colors Tahitian pearls possess is what makes them so famous around the world today.

Tahitian pearls are probably THE most colorful pearls in the world today … the endless variety that is presented to pearl shoppers is one of the most attractive and well-known attributes of Tahitian pearls.

Pearl color is broken into two major parts:

Body Color and Overtone

Tahitians are “black” pearls that aren’t really black, but show up most often in a large range of dark gray body colors, tinged with overtones that can be soft and shimmering or intense and vivid. Their colors are totally natural and not treated in any way.

Scroll down to view the most common body colors and the most popular and famous Tahitian pearl overtones available today.

Tahitian Pearl Body Colors

Tahitian Pearl Colors: Major Body Colors

Tahitian Pearl Overtones

Tahitian Pearl Overtones: Classic Peacock

An example of a “classic” peacock overtone in front, over a medium charcoal gray body color. Behind is another variation of peacock featuring a much higher concentration of rose over a nearly black body color.

Tahitian Pearl Overtones: Green to Blue-Green Overtones

Green to blue-green overtones are some of the most common Tahitian pearl overtones you’ll come across today. These pearls feature a cool green to blue-green overtones over dark charcoal gray body colors. Tints of other colors are also present.

Tahitian Pearl Overtones: Silver and Steel

A silver overtone shown on freeform baroque Tahitian pearls … these pearls are tinted with darker blues and rose hues.

Tahitian Pearl Overtones: Multi-Colors Pearls

Multi-colored Tahitian pearl necklaces are eclectic and incredibly eye-catching, and as varied as it’s possible to get. Multi-color Tahitian strands are exactly what they sound like, and feature a range of light to dark body colors and a mix of overtones throughout.

Tahitian Pearl Overtones: Fancy Colors

“Fancies” are Tahitian pearl overtones that are rare and super saturated … some of the most famous “Fancy” colors are: eggplant, pistachio, bronze, chocolate, cherry and midnight blue.  

Tahitian pearls are famous for their colorful overtones … that’s what makes these pearls so unique and so sought after. Because Tahitian pearls cover a range of body color and overtone combinations, the variety of color you can see is nearly endless … no two pearls are exactly alike.

The most famous Tahitian overtones are:

  • Peacock:“Peacock” is the most famous of all Tahitian pearl overtones. It shows up as a mix of green, rose and gold colors … the Peacock overtone has many variations depending on how warm or cool the green colors are, and how much rose or gold is present.
  • Green to Blue-Green: probably the most common Tahitian pearl overtone. These can also be warm or cool, dark and saturated or pale and shimmery.
  • Silver to Steel: the Silver and Steel overtones are also very common, and usually show up as a whitish patina over the base body color. The best Silver colored pearls feature an overtone laid over a light gray body color, and may feature additional tints of blue-green and green. Steel overtones are very commonly seen in larger pearls.

Caring for Tahitian Pearls

8 Simple Rules for Caring for Tahitian Pearls

Pearls on Last: make sure that your pearl jewelry is the last part of your outfit you put on. This is after all cosmetics, perfumes, hairspray, etc., and then the pearls can be added. This gives the pearls a chance to avoid being exposed to any chemicals and possibly discoloring over time.

After Care: after you’re done wearing your pearls for the day, it’s a good practice to wipe them down with a soft, slightly damp cloth. This helps remove any residues like sweat, oil or other chemicals they may have picked up from the day.

Storing Necklaces: it’s best to lay your necklaces down flat in your jewelry box rather than hang them on a hook when you’re done wearing them, as this stops the silk knotting from stretching out in between each pearl. Pearls should be stored away from other jewelry with sharp metal components to prevent surface scratches.  

Restring Your Pearls: another great way to keep your pearl necklaces and bracelets looking their best is to get them professionally restrung once a year to once every two – three years or so, depending on often you wear them. Restringing your pearls keeps the knots fresh, tight and non-frayed.

Avoid Swimming and Showers: while pearls were born in the water, modern additives like chlorine is really not ideal for pearls. In addition to possibly discoloring the pearls due to repeated, long-term exposure, the chemicals in the water also eat holes in the adhesives used to secure pearl pendants, earrings and rings to their mountings. Remove your pearl ring and set it in a safe place before washing your hands or doing the dishes as well.

Avoid Harsh Chemical Exposure: other chemicals can also harm your delicate pearls … avoid exposure to hydrogen peroxide, chemical bleaches and other dyes.

Avoid Storage Deposit Boxes or Airtight Containers: Pearls require moisture in order to retain their beauty and structural integrity, so airtight environments are deadly to pearls. There have been stories of pearls left in bank deposit boxes for safekeeping, only to open the box twenty years down the line to find pearl dust.

Wear Your Pearls: Like we said, pearls love moisture and will benefit from absorbing the oils in your skin, which will help moisturize the nacre layers and aragonite (think organic glue) holding the layers together, keeping everything nice and lustrous.

Tahitian Pearl Jewelry Style Guide      

Tahitian pearl jewelry offers something for everyone to admire. From classic strand necklaces to longer baroque pearl ropes, dazzling pearl and diamond earrings, pendants and stunning matched Tahitian pearl sets, Pearls of Joy offers an extensive collection of black pearl jewelry at a range of price points from affordable to luxury.

Tahitian pearl necklaces can be both round and baroque, and generally measure out to 18” fully knotted (longer lengths can be made to order!). Each strand is double-knotted on black silk and finished with a 14kt gold clasp of your choice. Shop for Tahitian pearl necklaces here.

Add a touch of the exotic to any wardrobe. From simple pearl stud earrings to dangles and even clip-on styles, Pearls of Joy has something for everyone to love. Every pair of pearl earrings are professionally matched for size, color, overtone, shape and luster, ensuring that your pearl earrings are perfectly matched and dazzlingly elegant. Shop the Tahitian Pearl Earring Collection here.

Tahitian pearl rings are an enchanting and lasting way to showcase your love of pearls. From simple solitaires to diamond engagement designs, Pearls of Joy has a unique and beautiful ring that is sure to bring you joy for years to come. Each black pearl ring is made to order and mounted with a nearly flawless AAA quality Tahitian pearl and is crafted out of solid 14kt gold and diamonds. Shop for your Black Pearl Ring here.

Tahitian pearl pendants are a stunning statement for any woman to wear. Choose from timelessly classic solitaire styles to more luxury level designs sparkling with diamond accents. Each black Tahitian pearl is hand-selected for its high luster, clean surfaces and colorful overtones meant to dazzle any pearl lover. Shop the Tahitian Pearl Pendant Collection here.

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