Black Pearls – The shimmering marvels of Tahiti, French Polynesia

French Polynesia black pearls

The second-largest industry in French Polynesia after tourism is the sale of black pearls.

The tropical island of Tahiti is the most famous feature of French Polynesia, a sandy archipelago in the middle of the brilliantly blue Pacific. In addition to the distinctive pearls that bear its name, this picturesque enclave is prized for its clear waters and black sand beaches. Although they can come in a variety of forms and sizes, the greatest Tahitian pearls are prized for their immaculate, spherical surfaces and vivid blue-green colours. They are considered to be the pride of Polynesia. Many tourists purchase some as mementos of their tropical excursion, but few are aware of how the pearls around their neck ended up in the display cases.

Black Pearls - The shimmering marvels of Tahiti, French Polynesia

A farmed Tahitian pearl’s life begins in a pearl farm, which are numerous and dispersed among the numerous atolls of French Polynesia. The oysters that need to be properly tended to and nourished during the developing process are marked by lines of pink, white, and orange buoys that are seen gently bobbing in the nearby seas.

cottages in the middle of beach
Photo by Julius Silver on

Most of the Indian Ocean, Baja California, and, most notably, French Polynesia, are home to the black-lipped oyster that creates the distinctive black pearl. After at least two years of normal growth on lines, the oysters become fertile and are prepared to start generating pearls. At this point in their lengthy voyage, the oysters are ready for the next and most important stage of retrieval.

Black Pearls - The shimmering marvels of Tahiti, French Polynesia

A little bead made of mussel shell and oyster mantle is placed into the opening mollusk during grafting, after which the baby oysters are kept in saltwater. This sophisticated process mimics the natural formation of a pearl, which occurs when an outside substance enters the oyster’s shell and the animal reacts by secreting layers of beautiful nacre on top of it. The initial shell color that was inserted and the black-lipped oyster’s intrinsic dark pigment both have an impact on the color of the final pearl.

The oysters are put in nets with separate pockets after the grafting is finished, and they are then returned underwater. This enables divers to identify the molluscs that have accepted and rejected the transplant. Those who accept the graft are given ongoing care and attention, and they are regularly taken up to the farm to be cleaned and inspected. Reseeded or discarded are those who rejected the transplant. The oysters stay submerged for roughly two years, and this recuperation time is crucial to the oyster’s wellbeing as well as the creation of a high-quality pearl.

The oyster is carried back up to the grafting lab when the pearl is ready to be retrieved, when a technician reopens the shell and removes the brilliant gem. Some oysters can be implanted again and again since the pearl tends to get bigger with each graft. The price of a pearl increases with its size. The biggest Tahitian pearls have a maximum diameter of 16mm and can cost up to $1,000. These stunning items are available for purchase by tourists in mounted arrangements or singly at stores, pearl farms, and showrooms all around the Polynesian islands.

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