Tahitian Pearls: Origin, Color, Shape, Size of Peacock Pearls

Tahitian Pearls: Origin, Color, Shape, Size of Peacock Pearls
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Peacock pearls belong to the family of Tahitian pearls (salt water pearls) and they are one of the rarest pearls, most valuable and sought after. We all know that peacocks are beautiful and their beauty is attributed to their colorful plumage. Peacock pearls are pearls that have the colors of a peacock. They come in different shades like dark blue, green and purple and also in varieties of shapes and sizes. If it is a true peacock pearl, you will observe the pink, purple or golden overtone of color appears to float on the surface of dark grey-green body of pearl as the light catches it. The natural saltwater pearls have an intrinsic color without any artificial treatment.

Peacock pearls are elegant, posh and stylish. They are admired for their extraordinary sheen and generous dimensions. They are attributed to luxury and perfection. These pearls are considered to be the ‘most legendary and exclusive cultured pearls of all times’.

Peacock Pearls Origin

tahitian pearlsPeacock pearls are pearls in oysters and not just any oyster, but by the special black-lipped oyster (Pinctada margaritifera) found in French Polynesia. The production of these pearls contributes significantly to the French archipelago. Some jewelers around the world falsely market ‘Australian Tahitian Pearls’ or pearls that are not from French Polynesia as Tahitian Pearls and they are actually black pearls. Both natural pearls and cultured pearls are available, as many pearl farms are being set up across the French Polynesia islands to meet the growing demand for these beautiful gems.

Tahitian Pearl Colors

Tahitian pearls obtain their colors from the oysters and hence the different shades come from the pigments and trace elements of water in which oysters live. The color and depth of tone depends on other factors as well.

history-bpcolorWe all know how striking and beautiful a peacock’s plumage is. Scientists believe that this myriad display of colors is due to the reflection of light at different angles on the bird’s feathers. The same phenomenon can be observed in pearls. The layer of nacre on the curved surface of pearl leads to optical interference, and that is the reason for complexity of the pearls color. The complexity and depth of the pearl can be viewed from different angles as the tones shift. Color intensity also depends upon shape of the pearl, thickness and transparency of nacre.

Tahitian Pearl Shapes

The Tahitian Pearls have different shapes, namely: round, semi-round, semi-baroque, baroque and ringed (or circled).

tahitian peals size chart

Among all these shapes, round Tahitian pearls are the most desirable and valuable. They are almost perfect spheres and they are very rare. The semi – round Tahitian pearls are not perfect spheres but they are very nearly round. The baroque Tahitian pearls are irregular in shape.

Tahitian Pearl Size

The most common tahitian pearl size ranges from 8 mm to 14 mm. Some pearls can also go up to 16mm and very rare ones can have sizes greater than 18mm. It has been found that the size of the largest Tahitian pearl in the world is 21mm for a round pearl and 25mm for a semi-round pearl. The larger the size, the more valuable they are.

tahitian peals size chart

Artificial Culturing of Tahitian Pearls

The culturing of pearls dates back to the early 20th century and many attempts have been made since then to reproduce artificially the peacock colors of a Tahitian pearl. The exact techniques employed for the artificial reproduction of colors are not known, but silver nitrate solutions may be used to darken the pearl. Some other coloring agents can be used to darken the pearl, such as organic dyes to produce a blue, purple, brown or green hue. Gamma ray irradiation can also be used.  When we use Gamma ray radiation, the nucleus is darkened and this leads to darker pearls. The pearls do not retain any radioactivity and this treatment is believed to be permanent.

pearl farming

The black pearls that are sold today in many markets are in fact Chinese freshwater pearls that have been treated artificially. If an experienced pearl expert or retailer were to come across such a pearl, the treatments that it had undergone would be quite obvious to them as they can never really imitate the exact peacock colouring of nature.  Colour differences and fading over time may also be observed by some dye treatments.  You could always ask your retailer about the quality of the pearl, if you are unsure.

Tahitian Pearls in Jewellery

baroque tahitian pearl jewelryPeacock pearls can be used in rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. For mounting, you could use silver, as the soft luster of pearl complements the cool, pale tone of silver. They are used extensively in pendants and studs due to lack of decorative metal work. They are also available in classic single strands.

Fake Vs Real Peacock Peals

There are a lot of low grade pearls out there in the market, which are making its way to the top as Tahitian pearls due to spike in demand. High demand has led to the arrival of imitations. The cultured pearls of a lesser grade are dyed to give the appearance of a Tahitian pearl. Nevertheless, they appear flat, dull and lifeless.

1. Shape :

Real pearls are seldom perfectly round. Hold the pearl up to the light and check its shape. Factory molded fake pearls will have a perfect round shape while real pearls will have imprefections due to them being in the oyster. You may definetly have a perfectly round real peal, but that will come at a huge sum.

Also Read: Home test for real vs fake sterling silver

2. Gritty:

There is a quick test for you to identify whether the pearl is a real Tahitian pearl or not. Just rub the pearl across your teeth.  If it is rough, then it is a real Tahitian Pearl and if it is smooth, then it is a fake.

3. Weight:

You could also check the weight of the Tahitian pearls. The real pearls are heavy to hold while the duplicates are light.

4. Temperature:

Plastic can also be used to imitate Tahitian pearls. Leave the pearl on the table for a few minutes. Fake pearls don’t feel cool when you touch them. They are always at room teperature. Real pearls however are cold to touch when left for sometime. It is another way for you to identify the pearl.

5. Finish:

For genuine Tahitian pearls, the jewerly is made with precision. If you look at how the holes are drilled, it would seem to be perfect. Fake pearls are mass produced in a factory and on close inspection you will notice lack of neatness and precision.

6. Lusture:

Genuine Tahitian pearls would have a colorful sheen, a rainbow luster when light hits them at an angle.  This luster would be missing in fake pearls. They will seem to be dull.

If you are intending to buy the peacock pearls, then do so from a reputable dealer and always check the pearl’s certificate before you buy.