Tahitian pearls are a mainstay of the fine jewelry market. They can be distinguished from the traditional white pearl by their relatively large size, unique colorings, and striking metallic sheen. Earliest European records of Tahitian pearls date back to the late 1700s, at which time they were naturally harvested from large sea oysters. Though once threatened with extinction, revitalization through renewable farming practices has enabled the Tahitian Pearl to become a major export industry of today's French Polynesia.
1. Size range: 8mm-17mm (or 0.315 in to 0.669 in).
2. Average size: 10mm-11mm (or 0.413 in).
3. Growth time: 22-28 months.
4. Oyster: Pinctada margaritifera cumingi, or the "Black Lipped Oyster."
5. Color range: Grays to deep blacks, pearl color cannot be enhanced or altered before export.
6. Regulations require that Tahitian cultured pearls have a minimum average of 0.8mm nacre thickness.
The Value of a Tahitian Pearl
To value a Tahitian pearl first begin by considering its fundamental qualities, such as luster, shape or roundness, surface cleanliness and, if your jewelry piece includes more than one pearl, whether it has been matched appropriately. Also note that apart from the alternative range of shapes, Tahitian pearls are best known for their roundness which, in combination with their size, makes them particularly striking.
Also, take a look at its more distinctive qualities. Although Tahitian pearls are naturally larger than average, every variety of pearl has a fixed size which, once surpassed, will increase its value exponentially. Tahitian pearls average 10-11mm, so while pearls less than 10mm are readily available, at 12mm-13mm and at every subsequent mm increase, the value of a Tahitian pearl is increased dramatically.
The coloring of a Tahitian pearl is another of its unique qualities. No color treatment is given prior to export; the pearl is simply cleaned and lightly buffed. This means that all of its various shades and hues are completely natural.
The Tahitian color spectrum swings between black, gray, aubergine, pistachio, peacock, and silver. While Tahitians tend to be represented as a being of a deep, lustrous black, in reality, they most often appear within the range of dark to silver gray, with a signature metallic sheen. Aubergine and Pistachio describe a deep purple, or a light yellow to green overtone respectively. These are sought after for their distinctiveness. Finally, the Peacock is so named due to its dark green to blue glimmer, reminiscent of a peacock's feathers. Unsurprisingly, the Tahitian Peacock is one of the world's most celebrated pearls.
It is very rare however to find a Tahitian pearl strand that is outstanding in all of the above qualities.