Over 99% of all the black pearls sold on the market today are cultured. And Tahitian pearls are among the most exotic and sought-after pearls today. While very often described as black, their colors cover the full spectrum from dark-black to silver-white, and nearly every color in between, including green, peacock, pink, lavender, blue and brown. The colors of these exotic pearls are completely natural and untreated in any way.
Tahitian cultured pearls are grown in the black lipped oyster, (Pinctada margaritifera). The pearl sizes range from 8 to 17mm but most measure between 9 and 11mm. It is the only oyster that regularly produces the unusual colors that characterize Tahitian pearls.
Well matched strands of large, lustrous Tahitian cultured pearls with their unusual colors command high prices. As a result, many Tahitian cultured pearls are sold in jewelry featuring singles, pairs, and sets. A station necklace, which has several cultured pearls set at intervals, is a good example of jewelry that makes fine Tahitian pearls affordable for more consumers.
Tahitian pearls are priced according to their luster, color, shape, surface perfection, size, and nacre thickness. They can look almost metallic. Luster is perhaps the most important ingredient for pearl beauty and the quality and beauty of the pearl’s luster is directly related to the thickness of the nacre.
Twenty years ago, the preferred coloration of black pearls was dark gray with green and pink overtones (peacock colors) but nowadays lighter and silvery colors are also very popular along with multicolored strands. Additional overtones of pink, red, green, gold, or blue only add value.
Rounds are the most expensive followed by drop shapes. The more symmetrical the shape, the higher the valuation. Although baroque shapes and circled pearls with ring like formations around them are considered to be less valuable, they can equal or even surpass the beauty of the ideal shapes
Naturally, the larger the pearl, the more expensive it is. Tahitian pearl sizes range from 8 to 17mm but most measure between 9 and 11mm. Some baroque pearls may reach 25 to 30mm in length and size has a major impact on price. A 1mm increase in a pearls size can increase their price by 100 to 200%.
Like all other pearls, surface blemishes will decrease the value of but they will be more affordable and still look great from a distance. Imperfections can often be positioned so they are less apparent.
Nacre thickness is always a critical concern. Nacre thickness is a basic factor in judging the elegance of a pearl. The thickness should be at least 1mm but 1.5mm is more desirable as the thickness also determines the durability of the pearl. Nacre thicknesses can be measured with X-rays and this approach is suggested for the evaluation of higher valued goods.
Tahitian cultured pearls have shown an upward trend ever since their introduction. In mid 2001, after a period of price reductions from too much low quality product, the French Polynesian government issued nacre thickness and surface quality export standards. Enforcement of those standards, along with an exceptionally strong and widespread marketing campaigns indicate that the upward trends will probably continue.