Tahitian Pearl – What Is It and What Makes It Special?

Tahitian pearls are a unique and highly sought-after gem, known for their beautiful colors and luster. These pearls are grown in the black-lipped oyster found in the warm waters of French Polynesia and are considered to be some of the most valuable pearls in the world.  

You may have heard of Tahitian pearls referred to as black pearls. As with most other common sayings and myths, there is some truth to this but it’s not the whole story. So, today we’ll take a look at what exactly a Tahitian pearl is, its value, and how it compares to other types of pearls.  

What is a Tahitian Pearl? 

tahitian pearl pendants
Tahitian pearl pendant by Tehotumana. See it here.

As the name implies, Tahitian pearls come from the waters of the South Pacific Ocean near the island of Tahiti. The area isn’t as small as it sounds, however, because Tahitian pearls can be found around all islands of French Polynesia, not just Tahiti and Bora Bora.  

There are also some black pearls found near Kiribati and the Cook Islands but those account for just about 3% of the global supply – the other 97% come from the French Polynesia region. 

What makes these Tahitian pearls special – and confined to that one part of the Pacific – is that they’re made by a specific specie of black-lipped oyster found only there. Thanks to that, as the pearl’s nacre layers form over time inside the oyster, they’re colored by the black pigment of the mollusk. 

This is also why Tahitian pearls are thought of as black, and they often are – much more often than other types of pearls. Not all Tahitian pearls are fully black, however, as most usually have a beautiful metallic steel gray color. 

So, when looking for Tahitian pearls, you can expect to find lots of pearls that have blueish, brownish, greenish, silvery, or other metallic tinges, with many even flowing from one color to another. Black Tahitian pearls are, of course, also a thing, and they’re highly valued and very much sought-after. 

Truly black natural Tahitian pearls are extremely rare, and can only be found in 1 out of 10,000 cases. Additionally, diving for natural wild Tahitian pearls is prohibited in order to preserve the population of the French Polynesian black-lipped oyster. 

This means that the vast majority of Tahitian pearls you’d find on the market today are cultured. This doesn’t mean that they are “fake”, of course – they’re as many pearls as any wild-grown pearl. The only difference is that the nucleus is placed inside cultured and population-controlled black-lipped oysters – this way the wild population of the specie can be preserved and the pearl yield can be optimized. 

Tahitian Pearls vs. Other Types of Pearls 

tahitian pearl bangle
Tahitian pearl bangle by Hana Maui Creations. See it here.

Tahitian black pearls are incredibly popular and highly valued with truly black pearls being on par with the famous Japanese Akoya pearls that are often held up as the gold standard for pearls. 

In fact, black pearls tend to also be bigger than the white Akoya as the black-lipped oyster is much larger than the oysters that Akoya pearls grow inside – 12 inches in diameter for the black-lipped oysters to about 3 inches for an Akoya oyster. There’s a drawback to that, however, as an Akoya lobster can produce a splendid white pearl for about 5 to 6 months whereas a black-lipped oyster needs 18 to 24 months. 

The other main difference is that Akoya pearls are much more consistently white while Tahitian pearls are very rarely truly black. This is important because, as beautiful as the other metallic colors of the Tahitian pearls are, they are not as highly rated or sought-after as the black Tahitian or the white Akoya pearls. Still, there’s a hidden positive in that technical “negative” as that means lower prices for the beautiful non-black Tahitian pearls. 

As for comparing Tahitian pearls to freshwater pearls, the former are generally more valuable and sought-after than the latter as white freshwater pearls don’t really have the same luster, shine, and size as white Akoyas. 

Why Choose Tahitian Pearls? 

The Tahitian pearls grown throughout the Pacific are famous for their black color even though most of them aren’t truly black but come in a wide spectrum of metallic colors. Whether black or not, however, they are always quite stunning to look at, they are considerably larger on average than other types of pearls, and they can work beautifully with all kinds of jewelry. 

If your budget allows for some extra spending, you can find a lot of huge and fully-black pearls that are guaranteed to catch the eyes of even the most experienced expert or collector. If, on the other hand, you are on a somewhat tighter budget, you can still find a lot of multi-colored, metallic, and undeniably gorgeous Tahitian pearls that may not be as highly rated by the professional clique but are truly beautiful nonetheless. 

How to Evaluate the Quality of Tahitian Pearls  

tahitian pearl earrings
Tahitian pearl earrings by The Pearl Source. See them here.

Evaluating the quality of Tahitian pearls can be a bit tricky, as there are several factors to consider. Here are some key points to keep in mind when evaluating the quality of these pearls: 

  • Luster: The luster of a pearl is determined by the quality and thickness of its nacre, which is the substance that creates the pearl. The higher the luster, the more valuable the pearl is considered to be. 
  • Shape: The shape of a pearl is also an important factor in determining its quality. Perfectly round pearls are the most valuable, but other shapes, such as the oval, baroque, and semi-baroque are also beautiful. 
  • Size: The size of a pearl is also important, bigger pearls are usually more valuable than smaller ones. 
  • Color: Tahitian pearls come in a variety of colors, from black to silver-gray to green, and even pink and purple. The color of a pearl can also affect its value. 
  • Surface: The surface of a Tahitian pearl should be free of blemishes or spots. The fewer blemishes or spots a pearl has, the more valuable it is considered to be. 
  • Certification: Look for pearls that come with a certificate of authenticity from a reputable pearl grading laboratory. 

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect pearl, and minor imperfections are expected. It’s important to evaluate the pearls based on the overall balance of quality and beauty and to choose the pearl that you personally find most attractive. 

Tahitian Pearl Value and Price 

The value and price of Tahitian pearls can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including size, shape, color, luster, and surface quality. Generally, larger pearls with high luster, a symmetrical shape, and deep, rich color will command a higher price. Perfectly round pearls are considered to be the most valuable, but other shapes, such as the oval, baroque, and semi-baroque are also beautiful. 

Tahitian pearls are considered to be one of the most valuable types of pearls on the market, and they can range in price from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars for a single pearl. A necklace of Tahitian pearls can range in price from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars or more depending on the quality and size of the pearls. 

Tahitian Pearls in Jewelry  

tahitian black pearl pendant
Tahitian necklace by Chaulri. See it here.

Tahitian pearls are a popular choice for jewelry due to their unique and beautiful colors. They’re often used to create elegant and sophisticated pearl necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and even rings. They’re versatile and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. 

One of the most popular forms of Tahitian pearl jewelry is the pearl necklace. Tahitian pearl necklaces can range from simple strands of pearls to more elaborate designs that feature multiple strands or different pearl shapes. They can be worn with a variety of different outfits, making them a great accessory for any occasion. 

Tahitian pearl earrings and bracelets are also popular choices. They’re often paired with matching necklaces to create a complete set. Rings with Tahitian pearls are also becoming increasingly popular, as they are a unique and elegant way to show off the pearls. 

Tahitian pearls are also often used in combination with other gemstones, such as diamonds, to create unique and beautiful pieces of jewelry. They’re also often used to create traditional and cultural jewelry, such as Tahitian headdresses and bracelets. 

Tahitian Pearl Symbolism  

tahitian black pearl drop earrings
Tahitian pearl drop earrings by SadaJewels. See them here.

Tahitian pearls are known for their unique and beautiful colors, they’re often associated with luxury, elegance, and beauty. They can symbolize wealth, status, and sophistication. 

In addition to their aesthetic qualities, Tahitian pearls have also been associated with spiritual and cultural meanings. Pearls are often associated with the moon and water, which can symbolize emotion, intuition, and femininity. They can also represent purity, innocence, and wisdom. 

In some cultures, pearls are also thought to have healing properties and are believed to bring good luck and prosperity. They’re also associated with love and are often given as gifts to express love and affection. 

Tahitian pearls are also associated with French Polynesia and its culture, they can symbolize a connection to the land and its people. These pearls are versatile gemstones with a wide range of meanings and symbolism. They’re not only beautiful and valuable, but they also have deep cultural and spiritual significance. 

How to Clean and Care for Tahitian Pearls 

Caring for Tahitian pearls is essential to keep them looking beautiful for a long time. Here are some tips on how to clean your Tahitian pearls: 

  • Avoid harsh chemicals: Avoid using harsh chemicals like chlorine, bleach, or cleaning solutions on your pearls. They can damage the pearl’s surface and discolor the pearls. 
  • Wipe them with a soft cloth: To remove any dirt or oils, gently wipe the pearls with a soft cloth after wearing them. A microfiber cloth is a great option. 
  • Use warm water and mild soap: If your pearls are particularly dirty, you can gently clean them with warm water and mild soap. Be sure to rinse them well and dry them with a soft cloth afterward. 
  • Store them properly: When not wearing them, store your pearls in a cool, dry place, preferably in a soft cloth pouch or a pearl jewelry box. Avoid storing them in direct sunlight or in a humid area. 
  • Have them professionally cleaned: Have your pearls professionally cleaned every couple of years to keep them in top condition. 

It’s important to remember that pearls are delicate gemstones and must be handled with care. Avoid exposing them to excessive heat, humidity, or any harsh chemicals. Following these tips will help to keep your Tahitian pearls looking beautiful for a long time. 

Where Can I Buy Tahitian Pearls? 

tahitian pearl ring
Tahitian pearl ring by The Pearl Source. See it here.

Buying Tahitian pearls on online platforms such as Etsy and Amazon can be a convenient way to find a wide selection of pearls at various price points. However, it’s important to be cautious when buying pearls on online platforms as there’s a chance of purchasing pearls that are not authentic or of lower quality.  

When buying Tahitian pearls online, it’s important to read the reviews and check the seller’s ratings and reputation. Always look for the certification of authenticity, and detailed information about the pearls, including size, shape, color, and surface quality.  

Additionally, it’s advisable to look for a seller with a good return policy, in case the pearls you received are not as described. Buying directly from pearl farms or reputable jewelry stores is also a good option to ensure the authenticity and quality of the pearls. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Tahitian Pearls  

1. What color of Tahitian pearls is more valuable? 

Darker and more intense colors of Tahitian pearls are considered more valuable, such as deep black, dark silver-gray, and green. 

2. Can you wear Tahitian pearls in the shower?

Tahitian pearls should not be worn in the shower, as exposure to water and cleaning products can damage the pearl’s surface, discolor them and reduce the luster. 

3. Do Tahitian pearls scratch easily? 

Tahitian pearls have a relatively hard surface, but they can still scratch if they come in contact with abrasive surfaces or if they are not handled with care. Proper storage and handling can help to prevent scratches and maintain the pearl’s beauty. 

4. What distinguishes Tahitian pearls from other pearls?

Tahitian pearls are distinguished by their unique colors, typically dark shades of black, gray, green, and blue. They are also larger than most other pearls and are cultivated in the black-lipped oyster from French Polynesia. 

5. Which is better Tahitian pearl or South Sea pearl? 

Both Tahitian and South Sea pearls are considered high-quality pearls, with their own unique characteristics. South Sea pearls are known for their large size and white or golden color, while Tahitian pearls are known for their unique colors such as black, gray, green, and blue.  

Wrapping Up 

Grown in the warm waters of French Polynesia, Tahitian pearls are considered to be some of the most valuable pearls in the world. They’re a symbol of luxury, beauty, and elegance, they make a perfect addition to any jewelry collection and can be worn on any occasion.  

Remember to choose your pearl carefully and take good care of it to keep it looking beautiful for a long time. Tahitian pearls are a timeless treasure that will be cherished for generations to come. 

Jewelry Guide