Black pearls are pearls of natural color (not dyed) from the Black-lip (Pinctada Margaritifera) oyster in the Western to Central Pacific Ocean or from the La Paz Pearl oyster (Pinctada Mazatlanica) or Rainbow-lipped oyster (Pteria Sterna) in the Eastern Pacific between Baja California and Peru. Some people use the term "black pearl" to refer to any dark colored pearl, dyed or natural color. Truly black pearls are extremely rare, and most "black" Tahitian pearls are not actually black.
Tahitian pearls are the synonymous to black pearls. They are primarily produced in the salt lakes of the Bolinia Islands. Their natural dark colors make these pearls very unique and unusually valuable. They have a rich, brilliant luster with silvery metallic or colorful overtones (of overtones, the peacock-green are the rarest) from their smooth, clean nacre. For long-time cultivation, they have an average nacre thickness of 1mm and up and range in size from 9mm to 16mm in diameter. Their teardrop shape is especially unique.
Tahitian pearls are one of the rarest pearl types in the world, and few oysters live long enough to produce a fine pearl. Because of their rarity, they are highly treasured. It's very difficult to match Tahitian pearls for a set or a strand--even a pair of earrings is difficult to match. These pearls are bold and stunning and make highly distinctive jewelry.
Commonly known around the world as black pearls, the pearls of Tahiti are indigenous to the remote lagoons of French Polynesia in the South Pacific.
Legend has it that the pearl oyster, Te Ufi was offered to man by Oro, the God of Peace and Fertility, who came down to earth on a rainbow. Some say that Oro offered the pearl oyster to the beautiful Princess of Bora Bora as a sign of his eternal love.
The scientific term for Te Ufi is Pinctada Margaritifera and it is most commonly known as the black-lipped oyster. In the 19th century, its shell, like that of many oysters, was in great demand by the European button industry. As a result, commercial shell harvesting operations by local and foreign entities took place annually in the lagoons of Tuamotu and Gambier--two of the five archipelagoes that make up French Polynesia.
In the days of such lucrative shell harvesting, one would have to open more than 15,000 oysters before finding a natural pearl.
So even before the secret of pearl cultivation was discovered, the Tahitian pearl had earned a reputation for value and rarity. This reputation was further enhanced by its use in the jewelry of the world's royalty and nobility. Soon the Tahitian pearl became known as the "pearl of queens and queen of pearls".
The most famous of these natural black pearls was called "Azra". It was the centerpiece of a necklace that was part of the Russian crown jewels.
Today, the Tahitian pearl has become an exotic gem sought after by celebrities and pearl aficionados alike.