Each Tahitian pearl is very unique and does not resemble any
other. So, to prepare the beautiful strand that will end up around our necks and in our jewelry boxes as treasures, will take
hundreds of pearls to find the similar ones. Even to find match for a pair of earrings is a difficult task! Tahitian Pearls
are pure richness in incognito, big and bold, warm against the skin and so pleasing to the eye.
Six factors determine Tahitian pearl quality: luster, nacre thickness, surface, color, size, shape.
1. Nacre Thickness
Nacre thickness is the most important factor when measuring Tahitian pearl quality. It determines how long
the beauty of Tahitian pearls will last. Tahitian pearls with thick nacre will last a lifetime, while Tahitian pearls with
thin nacre won’t last long; their nacre will wear off over time.
French Polynesia Government has set up a minimum nacre thickness of 0.8mm for Tahitian pearls. Tahitian pearls
with less than 0.8mm nacre thickness are prohibited from exporting.
2. Surface Quality
There are four grades to rate the surface quality of Tahitian pearls: A, B, C, D. A quality Tahitian pearls
are the highest quality and they are the most valuable.
A Quality: Tahitian pearls with very high luster and clean surface (one to a few slight flaws are distributed
over less than 10% of the pearl surface).
B Quality: Tahitian pearls with medium to high luster and slight surface imperfection (some slight flaws are
distributed over 30% of the pearl surface).
C Quality: Tahitian pearls with medium luster and medium surface imperfection (some slight flaws are distributed
over 60% of the pearl surface).
D Quality: Tahitian pearls are heavily spotted (many slight flaws or several deep flaws are distributed over
60% of the pearl surface).
Luster is the best expression of a pearl's beauty. It is the quality of the light reflections from the pearl’s
surface. Luster measures pearl surface shininess. High quality Tahitian pearls have high luster and mirror-like finish. Thick
nacre results in high luster. Tahitian pearls with sharp and intense light reflection have high luster and a metal-like steely
Most common sizes for Tahitian pearls range from 8mm to 14mm. Some Tahitian pearls are 16mm and very rarely
over 18mm. The largest Tahitian pearl in the world is 21mm for a round pearl and 25mm for a semi-round pearl. The larger the
pearls, the more valuable the pearls are.
Tahitian pearls have the following shapes:
ringed or circled
Among all shapes, round is the most desirable and valuable. Other shapes may have special appeal to jewelry
artists.Round pearls are almost perfect spheres. Round Tahitian pearls are rare and the production
rate only accounts for 5-10% of Tahitian pearls produced each year.
Semi-round pearls are nearly round.Semi-baroque pearls are subdivided into four shapes:
drop, button, pear and oval.
Baroque pearls are described as irregular shapes.
Black-lipped oysters produce the natural black color of Tahitian pearls. Although Tahitian pearls are famous
for their black natural color, they have a wide range of colors including black, gray, blue, green and brown. These colors
are referred as body color. Body colors are enhanced by at least one overtone colors. Overtone colors include blue, gold,
silver, pink and reddish purple.
Different names are given to a combination of overtone and body colors:
Peacock: greenish black
Cherry: purplish black
Champagne: yellowish gray
Lavender: bluish black
Tahitian gold: golden black
gray: purplish gray
Moon gray: pale gray
Among these colors, peacock and Pistachio are the most popular colors. Tahitian pearls with peacock and pistachio
colors have a higher value than pearls with other colors.
Buying Tahitian Pearls
When buying Tahitian pearl jewelry, color, quality, size, design, setting, and matching of Tahitian pearl
jewelry need to be paid attention. Low quality Tahitian pearls (medium or heavy blemishes) are only worth small fraction of
top quality Tahitian pearls (flawless or very slightly spotted). It is important to ask the stores you shop to provide detailed
information on their Tahitian pearl quality.
Real Tahitian Pearls and Imitation Tahitian Pearls
Be cautious about imitation Tahitian pearls sold in the market. Here are some tips about the differences between
real Tahitian pearls and imitation Tahitian pearls.
Real Tahitian pearls have the following characters:
1. Real Tahitian pearls have overtones or hue: green, gray, blue, peacock, eggplant or magenta. Real Tahitian
pearls have a faint reddish glow when viewed through crossed filters.
2. Real Tahitian pearls are cold to the touch. They
can quickly adopt body temperature.
3. Real Tahitian pearls are gritty when rubbed across the teeth.
4. Drilled holes
are smooth around the edges.
5. Real Tahitian pearls are heavy to hold.
Imitation Tahitian pearls have the following characters:
1. Imitation Tahitian pearls only have one body
color; they don’t have any overtone colors or hues. The color looks very flat.
2. Imitation Tahitian pearls always
have the same temperature as their environment. When touching them on your skin, you won’t feel coolness from the pearls.
Imitation Tahitian pearls are smooth on teeth.
4. Drilled holes are bumpy, as if pearls are melted during drilling.
Imitation Tahitian pearls are light in weight.
6. When viewed under a 10 x lens, bubbles or mat patterns will be seen under
the surface of imitation Tahitian pearls. We hope this helps you in your selections.