BLACK PEARL OF THE PACIFIC
Prestige, elegance, charm… This are attributes Tahitian pearls are famous for all around the world. Before visiting French Polynesia I knew nothing about those gems. Now I’m not so sure that it’s diamonds that are women’s best friends.
In the 16th century it was believed that pearls were created from a drop of rain. Later some theorists assured that they were eggs that oysters failed to expel from the mussel. Only in the 18th century it was discovered that a pearl is created when a fragment of the shell or any other foreign body (a grain of sand for example) irritates the oyster’s body. To defend itself an oyster places many layers of mother of pearl substance around the intruder and in this way a pearl is created.
The process described above is a natural one. Yet, pearls created in this way are very rare and therefore most valued. Today, almost all pearls sold on the world market come from pearl farms of which the best ones are told to be located near Tahiti. To produce a pearl an oyster needs a few years of preparation and proper caring. That includes such things as feeding, but also a massage (!!!) to stimulate the growth of the gem. When the pearl is ready it is carefully taken out of the mussel and then its second life begins.
Pearls are classified according to six different criteria, which influence its value: 1) SIZE: the bigger the better, of course 2) SHAPE: the most precious are perfectly round gems 3) COLOUR: pearl’s basic colour (white, black, cream or grey) should be intense and consistent, whereas its secondary colour is a matter of taste 4) BRILLIANCE: it’s all about how the pearl reacts to light and how shiny it is 5) PURITY OF SURFACE: each pearl has its unique markings appearing in the process of creation, the fewer the defects the more valuable the pearl 6) THICKNESS OF PEARL LAYERS: in other words – how much pearl there is in a pearl.
Knowing all that I went on a walk around Papeete’s pearl stores and… I have one more friend travelling with me.
Last but not least: Anne-Marie, Pierre - thank you so much for letting me use your pearls and shells for the photo-session!