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The Black Tahitian Pearl

Updated on December 4, 2012

The black Tahitian pearl is a cultured pearl, meaning it has been produced by man through a modern fish farm type of production. They do still come from oysters, in this the case the Black Pearl Oyster (Pinctada margaritifera ) but a process whereby man puts a substance or object inside the shell of the oyster, forcing a pearl to grow, is what is known as 'cultured pearls'.

However the black Tahitian pearl is still comparatively rare and valuable, because back pearl oysters only rarely produce pearls, even when 'seeded' to do so.

Pearls are produced when a foreign object enters the shell of the oyster, which is normally closed but occasionally open to feed. Sometimes it can be a irritant such as a parasite or a piece of broken outer shell of the oyster, after an attack by a predator.

It is rarely a grain of sand as previously thought. The auto-immune system of the oyster kicks into action, and layers of calcium carbonate and conchiolin are secreted to form rings round the foreign object to protect the oyster. Then another layer is formed, and yet another on top. The final pearl is a mass of concentric layers of calcium carbonate. It is because of these layers, or rings, that gemologists can determine a natural pearl from a cultured or fake pearl.

Tahitian Black Pearl Shapes

Perfect Black Tahitian Pearl Necklace

Photo courtesy of Amazon
Photo courtesy of Amazon

Baroque Pearls

Black Tahitian Pearl Color Guide

The Black Tahitian pearl is not pure black. They have lusters of other colors through the nacre , or mother of pearl, that they are made from.

Like mother of pearl, all the colors of the rainbow are represented, and finding two Tahitian pearls alike in color, shapes and size is a difficult job.

This is what makes complete necklaces made up of matching Tahitian pearls so expensive.

Nor are all black Tahitian pearls black.

Some are almost white, some are grey-black, or greenish or pinkish or blueish or bronzy in color.

Finding two alike is almost as rare as finding two snowflakes alike.

There is even an official color chart for the black Tahitian pearl.

  • Peacock – black and green
  • Fly Wing - metallic green and silver
  • Rainbow – black, green, and pink or aubergine
  • Tahitian Gold – black and gold
  • Champagne - yellow or gold and grey
  • Aubergine - purple or deep pink
  • Pigeon Grey – grey and purple
  • Moon Grey - pale grey
  • Pistachio – grey and green
  • Lavender - silver or grey and blue

Pearl Diameters

The Black Pearl Oyster Pinctada margaritifera

Coming as they do from the beautiful clear blue warm waters of the French Polynesia, black pearls have only beeen cultured since 1965. Named after the island of Tahiti around whose South Pacific waters the black pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera , thrives. Thanks to Tahitian government promotions, demand for the black Tahitian pearl continues to rise by 5% - 10% a year.

Black pearl oysters are less hardy and more prone to sudden death than their white counterparts, which means that the numbers of pearls cultured are less than any other cultured pearl. This increases their rarity and therefore their value.

Semi-round Pearls

Ringed Pearls

Shape, Size and Luster of a Pearl

The black Tahitian pearl comes on many shapes and sizes. The shape of these pearls are also charted, being round, semi-round, baroque, semi-baroque, ringed or circled.

The most valuable shape of pearl is round, and these account for only 5% -10% of the annual harvest.

Then there is their size which ranges from 8mm - 14 mm in diameter. Occasionally some larger ones are found reaching 16mm - 18mm although they are extremely rare.

Luster refers to the light color or glow reflected off the pearl itself. Light reacts differently on black pearls than it does on white, and again, finding two pearls with similar coloring, similar luster, shapes and size is next to impossible. They all reflect the light differently. Some are dull while others are exceptionally bright.

If you are considering buying a black Tahitian pearl online without having the benefit of examining that individual pearl beforehand, like you could do when you visit a jeweller's shop, then you can rest assured knowing that the pearl buyer who bought that pearl to set in jewelry chose nothing but the best when he bought them. Online businesses would not stay in business long if they did not bring the best to you, the customer.

Round Pearls

How to Tell Fake Pearls from Genuine Pearls

While gemologists have special X-ray machines that can identify a fake pearl from a cultured pearl and from a completely natural pearl, there are a few things we can do to tell a fake from a genuine pearl.

The first being to gently rub its surface along one of your teeth. A genuine pearl will always feel a little gritty, no matter how smooth it's surface feels by touch. A fake pearl will not have this grittiness and will feel smooth.

The other thing to look at is the hole that was made to connect the pearl to its jewelry fixture, especially in the case of a string of beads.

Genuine pearls have precision cut holes are they are man-made individually by a jeweller taking the greatest of care.

Fake pearls are nearly always strung together in bulk, with their holes being rough-cut, possibly by machine and they not have the neatness that a genuine pearl has.

Genuine pearls are cold to touch although they quickly adapt and warm to skin temperature.

Fake pearls are always at room temperature so you will not feel that coldness when you touch them.

Fake black pearls do not have the rainbow luster sheen that genuine Tahitian pearls have and tend to look dull in comparison.

Beautiful Tahitian Video

Tahitian Black Pearl Stud Earrings at Amazon

Care of your Black Tahitian Pearl Jewelry

If you are lucky enough to own some black pearl jewelry, it needs special care if you want to keep it looking as perfect as the day you bought it (or received it).

The surface of black pearls are sensitive to things like body sweat, make-up, creams, perfumes and jut about anything that touches its surface.

Jewellers recommend that all make-up, perfume etc is applied before the jewelry is put on, as it has less likelihood of damage this way.

Keep your black pearl jewelry wrapped in a soft cloth when not in use, to protect the surface of the pearls from other items you may have in your jewelry box.

Black pearl earrings make great earrings, because the pearl is protected from wear and tear by the metal it is set in, whether that be gold, white gold, or silver, from your skin.

Necklaces made from black pearls are beautiful and valuable items but really should be treated with the greatest of care.On the special occasions you will wear them, make them the last thing you put on before you go out, and the first thing you take off when you get home.

Never wash the dishes with a black pearl ring on your finger. Take it off first. The chemicals in the washing up liquid will almost certainly damage your pearl.

To clean your black pearl jewelry, simply rub with a clean, dry, soft cloth.


Submit a Comment

  • MoragCampbell profile image

    MoragCampbell 7 years ago from Planet Earth

    Yes they are gorgeous, aren't they? Thanks for commenting :)

  • profile image

    jewellery channel 7 years ago

    tahitian pearls are unmatchable in beauty...