The Queen of Pearls - Tahitian Black Pearls

 by: Yoshihito Tanaka

During the 19th century in Europe, Especially England's luxury markets created a huge demand for items made from "Mother of pearl." Mother of pearl refers to the nacre layered on the inside the oyster’s shell. Nacre is the substance used by an oyster to form a pearl. Mother of pearl was used for jewelry, buttons, inlay, and even carved gaming chips for the aristocracy in England and Europe.

Only one out of every 15,000 to 20,000 oysters opened is found a "natural" pearl. The natural pearls' rarity and beauty has been adored as "The Queen of Pearls." They were used in the jewelry of the world’s royalty. The most famous of these natural black pearls was called “Azurai” It was the centerpiece of a necklace that was part of the Russian crown jewels.

Unfortunately, demand was so high that all of the accessible black-lipped oyster populations were severely depleted. Divers had to dive deeper and deeper to find the oysters, until finally the there were so few oysters left that the trade could not be sustained.

Today, thanks to decades of careful work by Polynesian growers, enough pearls are available that we can make them into necklaces, earrings and pendants.

The Tahitian black pearl has become reasonably popular during the past several years. It has a generally black-green appearance and often carries with it a cast of a particular color.

Tahitian Pearls come from the Pinctada margaritifera, the black-lipped oyster.The dark shell of this species of mollusk hints at the breathtaking natural black color of the pearls it produces. While described as Black Pearls, Tahitian pearls actually come in a range of body colors from black to silver and even dark gold. Don’t confuse these pearls with their cousins, the South Sea Pearls. SOUTH SEA pearls are formed by the Pinctada maxima, commonly called the silver- or golden-lipped oyster. Their colors range from white, gold, and pink. Black-lipped oysters are indigenous to the beautiful lagoons of French Polynesia, Fiji, Samoa, and the atolls of the Cook Islands. Oddly enough, despite their name, the pearls are not actually found in the waters off the island of Tahiti itself. But Tahiti remains the primary commercial center for the natural black pearls.

About The Author

Yoshihito Tanaka

My Hawaiian Jewelry

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