Developed only in black lip (Pinctada margaritifera) oyster, Tahitian pearls are primarily cultivated in the waters surrounding Tahiti. The oysters that produce these beautiful pearls are nearly twice the size of other saltwater pearl-producing oysters, and therefore their pearls are often large, as well.
Where Do Tahitian Pearls Come From?
Tahitian pearls don't only come from Tahiti, although there are several pearl farms located there. They're most commonly produced in the great atolls of French Polynesia, but they can come from anywhere in the central or southern portions of the Pacific Ocean.
How Long Does it Take to Cultivate Tahitian Pearls?
From start to finish, it usually takes between 2 and 3 years for a Tahitian pearl to form. In order to cultivate these breathtaking pearls, pearl farmers must first nucleate them.
Where Do Farmers Get Black Lip Oysters?
Pearl farmers generally raise their oysters from young in specially designated areas. These areas are cordoned off in the lagoons where these oysters would normally live.
Only mature oysters are used to cultivate pearls. Juveniles cannot reliably produce marketable pearls.
The Tahitian Pearl Cultivation Process
Pearl farmers nucleate a black lip oyster by prying apart its shells, making an incision in the soft tissue that protects the oyster's organs, and inserting an irritant that causes it to excrete nacre. Nacre is a protective substance that coats the irritant, and in doing so, it produces a pearl.
Harvesting Tahitian Pearls: The Process
It takes 2 to 3 years for a Tahitian pearl to form inside a black lip oyster. Because pearl farmers keep all their oysters together in nets, they remove large numbers of the oysters from the water at the same time.
The oysters are taken to a processing facility where experts open their shells and carefully remove the pearls that have formed. Oysters that have not produced pearls are discarded, while those that have produced high quality pearls may be nucleated again.