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Tahitian Pearls - 3 Things You MUST Know

Posted by Kevin Canning on 11/6/2015 to Products

These exotic "black pearls" are the stuff of legend.

Just the mention of black Tahitian pearls, conjures up thoughts of deep tropical waters, swaying palm trees and good men gone mad in search of them.

Below are three quick facts I think everybody should know before making the decision to buy Tahitian pearls.

#1 - Tahitian pearls are not grown in Tahiti. 

Tahiti is the main island hub of French Polynesia, but Tahiti itself does not actually produce pearls.

Tahitian pearls are grown in French Polynesia, a group of 5 island archipelagos that covers the size the Europe!

Yet only has a land surface of around 1500 square miles.

The two archipelagos responsible for most of the pearl production are the Tuamotu Archipelago and Gambier Islands.

tahitian pearl farming areas

*I should also note that Tahitian pearls don't come from Hawaii either, regardless what that sales clerk told you.


#2 - "Black" Tahitian pearls aren't actually black

When discussing the color of Tahitian pearls(or pearls in general) the term "black" is used to describe pearls with dark body colors.

It could be blue, purple, green, brown, silver -- but never a true black.

In addition to the body color, Tahitian pearls can display an amazing range of overtones(especially the circle and baroque shapes).

Traditionally the most sought after(expensive) Tahitian pearls will have a dark green body color and peacock(think oil slick) overtones.

Pearls that look something like this:

peacock tahitian

That said, in the last few years we've really seen an increased appreciation for the full range of colors possible

This multi-color strand shows how different the colors can be:

multi-color tahitians


*It's important to note that Tahitian pearls are the only naturally "black" pearls. Black Akoya and black freshwater pearls are dyed.

#3 Tahitian pearls come in many shapes (and that's a good thing!)

Tahitian pearls are bead nucleated.

Which means the pearl farmer will very skillfully insert a round shell bead inside the oyster.

With the hope that the oyster will produce a round pearl.

The bead DOES increase the chance of a round pearl, but mother nature is still in charge of this operation.

And in fact less than 10% of harvested pearls will be round.

The shapes will normally fill into 4 categories:
  • round
  • near round
  • baroque
  • circle (a type of baroque pearl)
shapes of tahitian pearls

Why you want to consider baroque pearls....

In a word - COLOR!

The shape of baroque pearls allow for light to reflect from many different angles, making overtones really pop.

The most colorful strands are always the baroque and circle shaped pearls.

Baroque Tahitian Pearls:

baroque Tahitian pearl necklace

"Circle" Tahitian Pearls:

circle tahitian pearls

If you found this info helpful... Leave a comment below.

If you'd like something more in-depth, here's a great article written for retailers on Selling Tahitian Pearls. But the info is just as valuable for the consumer.

If you're interested in buying Tahitian Pearls - View my collection of Tahitians here



Reader Comments

Date 11/9/2015
Hamda
Hi! Let me tell you one thing! You have piqued my interest in pearls in NO way any other business owner or a salesman/woman ever did for every product that I bought through out my life.. Your emails about pearls, their types, and even sales take me to this website regardless of whether I want to buy or not! I only want to find out more and more about pearls, shapes, sizes, names and colors! Signing up for such emails is very rewarding and made me see a world of pearls I honestly never saw before. I may sound too much, but thats a truly interested me when I am truly interested. Looking forward to more of this beauty called pearls. Best, H
Date 11/9/2015
loretta
Can't wait kevin!
Date 11/9/2015
Melanie D
I love your emails, the more I learn from you the more I know that when I am ready to buy, it will be from you! I purchased a strand of "Tahitian " pearls several years ago and was disappointed in the color, more gray than "oil slick". Yours are stunning!
Date 11/9/2015
Theresa
I couldn't the post about the colour and overtone of Tahitian pearls. I'm most interested about peacock. Do you have a post about it?
Date 11/10/2015
Sheri
I am waiting to see your newest listings!
Date 11/10/2015
Phiphi
Can't wait for Thurs to come! I am really new to the world of pearls but am excited to see what you will have on Thurs. Thanks for the email!
Date 11/10/2015
Shelia
Thanks for the great info, Kevin!
Date 11/10/2015
annette
very helpful picture of the types!
Date 11/10/2015
MG
I'm in love with the circle Tahitians, the colors are awesome!
Date 11/10/2015
Suzanne
Hi. I love pearls, except for the circle pearls...what is the deal with those? I always thought they were the poorest quality. Is that true, or do people want them for a certain reason? What causes those circles? Is it more difficult to avoid those circles the bigger pearls get? Can you talk about them and explain a bit about them. I would sure appreciate an education on circle pearls. Thanks.
Date 11/10/2015
Suzanne
Hi. I love pearls, except for the circle pearls...what is the deal with those? I always thought they were the poorest quality. Is that true, or do people want them for a certain reason? What causes those circles? Is it more difficult to avoid those circles the bigger pearls get? Can you talk about them and explain a bit about them. I would sure appreciate an education on circle pearls. Thanks.
Date 11/11/2015
Kevin Canning
Hey Suzanne, That's a good question -- "what's the deal with circle pearls?" Some people love how organic they look, and the bands of color that comes with them. Some hate them. I'll try and address them a little more closely in my email/blog post. Theresa -- I'll be sure to include some more pictures of peacock pearls as well.
Date 11/11/2015
William Cheung
Why are they so expensive???
Date 1/31/2016
Nancy Cryder
Hi Kevin: I LOVE the cream and the pink rounds! This is my 35th Wedding Anniversary coming up in May and would love to have a pair! Nancy Cryder
Date 2/2/2016
Patrice Cavese
I have 2 questions please. 1) what are the size
Date 2/2/2016
Patrice Cavese
I have 2 questions please. 1) what are the size ranges of the Tahitians? 2) are they also graded from A to AAA? Thank you, Patrice
Date 2/2/2016
Patrice Cavese
I have 2 questions please. 1) what are the size ranges of the Tahitians? 2) are they also graded from A to AAA? Thank you, Patrice
Date 2/2/2016
Kevin Canning
Hey Patrick, Tahitian pearls are generally found from 8mm to 16mm, but they can grow as large as 20mm. Tahitian pearls are graded in two ways. On the wholesale end we purchase them based on A-D system, with A being the highest. But on the retail end we use the more familiar A-AAA grading system to make it easier for customers. *Keep in mind grading "systems" are subjective and there is no standard system used by all.
Date 2/3/2016
Rosa Coronado
When l saw the article on pearls l was taken away and wanted to see pictures of the pearls l have always been fascinated with pearls dont own any pearls right now but these are gorgeous .l would love to see more pictures
Date 2/3/2016
Kevin Canning
Thanks Rosa!
Date 2/11/2016
Mary Slater
Very educational. Ty so much.?
Date 11/8/2017
Kim burkey
I am very interested in a black Tahitian pendant but I want the lustrous peacock color! Is it possible to get that?

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