Tahitian Pearls

  A brief history of pearls


In Tahiti, the story is told of the god Oro, who long ago used his rainbows to visit Earth, giving mother-of-pearl its iridescence and Tahitian pearls their entrancing colors. And so it's true, that Tahitian pearls are not simply "black" as they're commonly called, but themselves rainbows of color that make them such prized possessions today.

Though it's true they take their name from French Polynesia's most well-known island, Tahitian pearls are in fact not cultivated in Tahiti, but elsewhere throughout the waters of French Polynesia, a collection of islands and atolls in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. Tahitian pearl's rich history helps explain their allure and ever-increasing demand in today’s market. With the European discovery of the Pacific Islands in the late 1700's came a rush of traders and explorers who soon learned of the water’s riches, among them: mother-of-pearl, turtle-shell, sandalwood, and of course, natural pearls. In time, the pearl oysters of two islands -- Gambier and Tuamotu -- quickly became depleted, nearly to the point of extinction. Indeed, Europe’s growing demand for mother-of-pearl buttons caused the exploitation of the islands’ oysters to last another 150 years.

Then, by 1880, France gained control of the island group we now refer to as French Polynesia, and some actions were taken. Strict regulations were applied to curtail the intense fishing among these islands, including zones designated as off-limits, to allow oyster beds to repopulate. This conservation plan has been in effect ever since, specifying the islands and atolls where fishing is permitted, causing divers and their families to quickly migrate to them for work.

In the mid-20th century, building on the successful pearl culturing techniques of Kokichi Mikimoto in Japan, experimentation began with the oyster that produces Tahitian pearls.

In fact, it was through the skillful efforts of Japanese cultivation experts that the oysters were first nucleated, and that finally produced some of the earliest Tahitian pearls that were cultured including The first thousand Tahitian cultured pearls were harvested in the mid-1960's that were suitable for pearl necklaces. Today, the atolls of French Polynesia -- coral crowns in the middle of a great ocean -- continue to provide the perfect nutritious, pristine environment necessary for Tahitian pearl cultivation.

How pearls form in oysters
How pearls are harvested
How pearls brought to market
Know your Akoya pearls
Akoya Pearl Cultivation
Akoya Pearl Harvesting
Akoya Pearl Processing
Akoya Pearl Evaluation
Quality Factor One: Luster
Luster of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Two: Surface
Surface of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Three: Shape
Shape of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Four: Color
Color of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Five: Size
Size of Akoya Pearls
Know your South Sea pearls
South Sea Pearl Cultivation
South Sea Pearl Harvesting
South Sea Pearl Processing
South Sea Pearl Quality Evaluation
Luster of South Sea Pearls
Surface of South Sea Pearls
Shape of South Sea Pearls
Color of South Sea Pearls
Size of South Sea Pearls
Know your Tahitian pearls
Tahitian Pearl Cultivation
Tahitian Pearl Harvesting
Tahitian Pearl Processing
Tahitian Pearl Quality Evaluation
Luster of Tahitian Pearls
Surface of Tahitian Pearls
Shape of Tahitian Pearls
Color of Tahitian Pearls
Size of Tahitian Pearls
Gift Giving Occasions

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