Tahitian Black Pearls: How Are They Formed?

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Pearls are timeless gemstones associated with perfection and wealth – royals have worn them for centuries. These classic semi-precious gems form within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk and come in different types. 

The Tahitian black pearls are some of the rarest and most expensive pearls. This guide shares everything you need to know about black pearls.

Where do Tahitian black pearls come from?

Tahitian black pearls (also known as black pearls) don’t grow specifically in the famous Tahiti Island, as you may have thought. Instead, they grow around Tahiti Island, in the tropical lagoons and atolls of French Polynesia. 

These beautiful black pearls grow in a black-lip oyster, also known as Pinctada margaritifera. Pinctada margaritifera is a salt-water mollusk (a soft-bodied invertebrate partly or wholly surrounded by a calcium carbonate shell).

Farmers or grafters insert irritants such as sand, beads, parasites, or other pearls into the interior of the oyster. 

To rid itself of the irritant, the oyster coats it with layers of nacre which eventually harden to form a pearl. Nacre is a biomineral secreted by the oyster and stored in the shell. The pearl has various shapes: round, semi-round, teardrop, circle, oval, baroque, and semi-baroque. 

💡 Fun fact: The oysters’ release of the nacre is how their immune systems adapt to the irritant by isolating it. The result is a beauty to behold (a Tahitian black pearl).

Why are Tahitian pearls black?

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Tahitian pearls are black because they are cultured in black-lipped oysters with a band of black coloring in its shell. 

When the pearl forms closer to the shell’s lips, it absorbs the color as the host releases nacre. The closer the irritant is to the lips, the darker the pearl. Although they are considered black, these gems are shades of gray.

💡 Did you know? Tahitian black pearls are not pure black. Instead, they are dark colored (usually charcoal gray) with various undertones and overtones, including green, pink, silver, yellow, blue, or green.

What is the difference between a Tahitian black pearl and a cultured black pearl?

A Tahitian black pearl is a cultured black pearl, so there’s no difference.

A cultured pearl forms as a result of human intervention. Tahitian pearl farmers place irritants in a black-lipped oyster to create pearls.

Other cultured pearls include Akoya pearls (salt water), South Sea pearls, and freshwater pearls. 

What do Tahitian pearls symbolize?

Several beliefs surround the Tahitian pearl. Some cultures believe it symbolizes independence, strength, and wealth. 

One famous Polynesian legend believes the black pearls symbolize eternal love, while another believes it represents heavenly blessings.

The Chinese associate these gems with wisdom, and some people even think they have healing properties.

How much are Tahitian black pearls worth?

The cost of a natural black pearl depends on its shape, shine, and quality. Tahitian pearl prices range from $200 to $36,000.

How to Identify a Tahitian Black Pearl

The uniqueness and luminosity of Tahitian black pearls make them a target of imitation. 

To identify a Tahitian pearl, put it under a light. It should have a smooth matte finish. Unlike imitation pearls, Tahitian pearls reflect light.

Another way to identify this beautiful pearl is by using the drilled hole test. After drilling a hole, check the center. A genuine black pearl will have a dark-colored center to match its exterior. A white center means it’s dyed or has undergone radiation.

You can find more ways to determine if your pearl is genuine here

How to Clean Tahitian Pearls

For your semi-precious gems to last long, you must clean them properly. Black pearls don’t require rigorous cleaning. After every wear, simply wipe them with a soft dry cloth to remove any cosmetics or sweat. Wiping also avoids buildup and keeps them shiny and beautiful. 

If you notice buildup on your pearls, here’s how to clean them. 

Materials Needed

  • A small bowl
  • Lukewarm water
  • Jewelry-safe soap
  • 2 lint-free soft cloths
  • Olive oil


  • Pour lukewarm water in a small bowl and add a drop of jewelry-safe soap  
  • Immerse a lint-free cloth in the soapy water solution
  • Squeeze all the excess water out of the cloth (the cloth should be damp, not wet)
  • Using the damp cloth, gently wipe your jewelry
  • Put a drop of olive oil on a dry lint-free cloth and wipe the pearls to maintain their luster.
  • Set aside and allow to dry completely
  • When dry, store in a clean, lint-free cloth or a light empty jewelry box.

💡 Did you know? It’s advisable to wear your pearls often. The body’s natural oils keep them radiant.

FAQs About Tahitian Black Pearls

If you still want to know more about Tahitian black pearls, we’ve answered some of the questions people usually ask.

Can you get Tahitian pearls wet?

No! Any moisture will destroy your pearls. They will lose their shine, and the silk thread that holds them together will stretch. Avoid wearing them while showering, washing dishes, or swimming. Also, avoid any activity that will cause sweating.

How can you tell if a black pearl is dyed?

Your first red flag would be a cheap black pearl. 

The price of a dyed pearl is low, usually below $100. However, in some rare cases, you may find low-quality authentic Tahitian pearls costing less than $100.

The drilled hole technique may better tell if the pearl is dyed. After drilling a hole through the pearl, it’s dyed if the center looks white.

Which other colors of the Tahitian pearls exist?

Tahitian pearls come in undertones and overtones of green, pink, purple, brown, lemon, gold orange, cobalt blue, parchment, peacock, gray, eggplant, parchment and more.

How long does it take to produce a Tahitian black pearl?

Tahitian pearls take two to three years to reach an ideal thickness of 0.8mm. 

Why are black pearls bigger than white pearls?

Black pearls are bigger than white pearls because they grow in the Pinctada margaritifera (its host oyster), up to 12 inches in diameter. Its size naturally accommodates giant pearls.

On the other hand, the white pearl oyster grows to a maximum of only 3 inches. 

What is the most expensive Tahitian black pearl?

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The two most expensive black pearls are the “peacock” (green-pink colored) and the cobalt blue pearls. It’s not likely that you’ll find either pearl. Both are extremely rare. 

Are black pearls worth anything?

Tahitian pearls have a history of being the rarest and most expensive pearls worldwide. Today, they are still more valuable than other pearls. 

They have a high resale value, especially if you’ve been keeping and cleaning them well. The luster and radiance of black pearls make them a must-have. 

The Timeless Black Pearl

Pearls are a timeless classic. Their mesmerizing appearance has captivated jewel lovers worldwide. No wonder pearl farmers have dedicated time and effort to culture them for decades. The Tahitian black pearl is an excellent choice if you love pearls and the color black.

Cleaning and storing them well means you’ll keep them in good condition and possibly pass them on to generations after you. If you’d like to explore more about black gemstones, read this guide.

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