Amongst the most beautiful pearls in the world, Tahitian pearls are farmed in warm saltwater lagoons, mainly throughout French Polynesia. No pearls are actually cultured in Tahiti itself, with the main farms being as far as 1500km away on remote atolls and islands. Their locations are chosen for their reefs that provide protection from tides, access to free flowing warm water and environmental purity.
Tahitian pearls are cultured in the Pinctada margaritifera cumingii oyster. This large oyster produces pearls that are regularly grown between 8 and 18mm in diameter, becoming more valuable with increasing lustre and size. Before export, every batch of pearls are graded using X-ray technology to confirm each pearl has a minimum of 0.8mm of nacre. This means that Tahitian pearls should have a very good level of nacre quality and lustre.
The start of grafting operations for Tahitian pearls takes place between April and November, when the molluscs are implanted with one or two nuclei made from a freshwater mussel shell and a corresponding number of pieces of mantle tissue from a donor oyster. This is a very delicate and skilled operation, with the best quality farms employing skilled grafters from Japan. The implanted oysters are transferred to finely meshed baskets, suspended in the sea and the pearl may finally begin to grow. After between 18 and 24 months, the pearl is harvested from the oyster and possibly the oyster is seeded for a further second or third operation, a technique that enables the production of a few large beautiful pearls.
The most exotic and original of pearls, Tahitian pearls are also confusingly known as ‘black pearls’ as a result of taking on the colour of their black lipped oyster host. These pearls are produced though in many mysterious colours such as silver, grey, pistachio, peacock and aubergine. Initially the industry believed these incredible colours to be the result of a post-culturing treatment. Following confirmation by a leading laboratory that the colour was indeed natural, the first production of cultured pearls from French Polynesia began to be marketed successfully in the US and Europe during the 1970s.
Combined with classic round and baroque shapes, these colourful pearls have become highly fashionable and sought after in recent years. Whether made as a matched choker necklace of grey pearls, a unique multi-coloured strand or with the simplicity of a Tahitian pearl pendant or earrings, these pearls will not disappoint.
Winterson specialises in classic and contemporary luxury pearl jewellery. Based in London, UK, we have a successful family history and expertise of working with Tahitian Pearls for over 50 years. Explore the unique diversity of colours and shapes of our pearls and treat someone special, or yourself, to effortless elegance. If you choose to re-publish this article please give credit where credit is due.
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