Where Do Tahitian Pearls Come From?

Tahitian cultured pearls were first introduced as “black pearls” to the international market during the mid-1970s. Fun Fact: Tahitian pearls are not actually grown in Tahiti. It’s only one of the many islands of French Polynesia, a French territory located in the South Pacific. While it’s the largest island in the group, culturing takes place on the other islands. Now let’s learn on the actual origins of Tahitian cultured pearls!
Beautiful French Polynesia. The mollusks used for cultivating Tahitian pearls is native to Polynesia. There’s not much evidence on the early use of these pearls, but the mollusks that culture these treasures were regularly collected. They were mainly valued by early Polynesians for its mother-of-pearl shell that were initially used as ornaments, fishhooks and other tools.

Because the inside edges of the shell are black, they are commonly called the black-lipped mollusk. Black lipped mollusks can live up to 30 years undisturbed in the wild and can weigh up to 11 pounds. During its most productive period (about 3 to 7 years of age) the mollusk grows about 6-8 inches in diameter.

A worker removing a Tahitian pearl from its shell.

A worker demonstrates pearl removal.

French Polynesia consists of five broad groups of islands called archipelagos. They are the Marquesa Islands, Society Islands (which include Tahiti), Gambier Islands, Austral Islands, and the Tuamotu Archipelago. The majority of Tahitian cultured pearls are cultivated in the lagoons of the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Gambier Islands.

Unknown to the world decades ago, the Tahitian pearl is now French Polynesia’s largest export. Because they’re crucial to the local economy, the Polynesian government and industry work together to support and promote these beauties.
Collected Tahitian pearls displayed on the half shell.

What Makes Tahitian Cultured Pearls Different

All pearls are beautiful, but Tahitian pearls stand out from the rest! There is no other pearl type with “aubergine” color. It’s the trade term for cultured pearls with a dark grayish purple bodycolor, named for the eggplant. The most valuable cultured pearls are the darker variety because it is a unique quality among pearls.

Originally marketed as “black pearls,” Tahitian pearls actually come in various colors. These pearls are available in gray, black, brown, blue, green, purple, yellow-green and even pink. Not only do they come out round, but they come in various sizes. How cute!
Tahitian pearl pendant necklace on white background.
Trends come and go, but pearls are timeless. Pearls add a classic twist to a modern look and are still as relevant to today’s fashion as they were in the 70s.

These pearls come in all shapes and sizes, combine well with other gems, and are affordable when comparing to other pieces of jewelry. What’s more amazing than that?

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What is your favorite Tahitian pearl color? Tell us in the comments!