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by Sheweta Dhanuka

These are procured only from the land of Tahiti. Pinctada Margaritifera or black-lipped oysters are grown in the waters of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. The pearls are produced in the womb of these oysters.

Black Pearls are exceptional variety of pearls that every woman having known its grandeur would yearn for the jewelry holding these pearls. Frenchman, Jean-Marie Dormand was the father of cultured black pearl farming. The first harvesting of black pearl was done in the year 1965. It was exported foremost in 1972 and since then it has seen the robust growth.To make the purchase of genuine pearls at the correct price is a tough task. While buying it if the buyers have no information then it is suicidal and even little knowledge might turn to be treacherous. In such circumstances buyers should put off the plan of purchase for a moment and search out the complete know-how about it then after ensue for the acquisition. This content aims to proffer the buyers with the preeminent reliable and comprehensive information about these elite pearls.

Black Pearls are also called South Sea Black pearls. These are procured only from the land of Tahiti. Pinctada Margaritifera or black-lipped oysters are grown in the waters of French Polynesia and the Cook Islands. The pearls are produced in the womb of these oysters. With the attempt to facilitate the purchase of true black pearls government of Tahiti had laid down few regulations. These rules have to be followed by the sellers as the legal rules and by the buyers as the buying guide. It begins with size, nacre thickness, luster, surface quality, natural colour and shape. Some more characteristics are discussed to provide additional information about this extremely precious gift.

Size : The size of pearls is articulated in terms of the diameter and the unit used is millimeters (mm). It is measured in two ways. First is by the shortest diameter and secondly it is measured along the two diameters -the longest and the one after it. Round and semi round shapes are measured by the first while the rest three are measured in second way. The accepted size of black pearls gauge between 9-12 millimeters. The pearls measuring between 12-14 millimeters are associated as cream of the crop. Size between 14-16 mm is rare in nature hence are most precious and very expensive. More than 16mm is even more rare. Size more than 18mm is beyond the imagination and would fetch the price as high as sky. Buyers must ask for the micrometer and check the size of the pearl themselves in an attempt to evade all future bombshells.

Nacre Thickness : This characteristic determines the life and luster quality of the pearl. Nacre is the successive layers deposited on the nucleus surface of the pearl. It can be thick or thin. Thick nacre is more than or equal to 80%, less than this percentage is referred as thin nacre. Tahitian government allows the pearls with the thick nacre to be exported while the rest with thin nacre are rejected. Thick nacre enhances the look of the pearl as the effect body colour along with overtones and luster is doubled.

Luster : In layman’s words luster refers to the shine and gleam while technically it is the quality of the light reflections from the pearl’s surface. When light falls on the surface of the pearl it is reflected back in different directions from the internal layers of the nacre. Generally Tahitian pearls posses high luster yet it could be ripped into four that is very high, high, medium and soft. Very high luster means light reflections are brilliant while high luster refers to bright reflections. Medium is moderate reflections and weak reflection is soft luster. Dull luster is seen in the pearls with thin nacre therefore as pearls with thin nacre are rejected so is the pearl with dull luster. This characteristic along with the surface quality plays vital role at the time of pricing.

Surface Quality : Surface quality refers to the outer appearance of the pearl. As pearls are produced by the natural process it tends to have some or the other imperfection. Gemstones consist of flaws where as pearls have blemishes on it’s surface. These blemishes are easily visible by the naked eyes and as such no specific instrument is needed. The surface quality is split into four. These are Clean-Very Lightly Blemished, Lightly Blemished, Moderately Blemished and Heavily Blemished. These ratings are done one the basis of the smoothness and amount of blemishes on the surface. Tahiti government had made the rule that the pearls very poor in surface quality (having blemishes more than the quality D) could not be exported and had to be sold within the boundaries of the country itself.

Quality A : This type is clean to very slightly blemished with very high luster. Slight blemishes imply less than 10% of the surface that even are concealed later on while making the drill hole. The surface is completely smooth. This type is quite rare in nature. Everyone seeks this clean surface quality but for buying it one needs bulging pocket.

Quality B : It is lightly blemished with high luster. Light blemishes refer to imperfections less than one third or 33% of the surface.

Quality C : This type is moderately blemished with medium luster. It is certainly more than one third but less than two third of the surface that is less than 66%.

Quality D : It is heavily blemished with soft luster. In this type the blemishes are fully concentrated and are more than in the two third of the surface that is more than 66%.

Natural Colour : Pearls from Tahitian land could enlist varied colours from the edge of the black lipped oyster that produces it. The pearls seize black, blue, green, brown and gray body colours. Most of the pearls hold attractive overtones like lunar blue, silver, gold, gray-pink, peacock green, rainbow and reddish purple. Pearls are formed in diverse permutations and combinations of body colour and overtones. Overtones are the additional colours that increase the value in the economic terms. Pearls without any overtone are priced very less as compared to those having overtones. Further, regular deep black and gray with overtones of peacock green and rainbow are very costly.

Colours are created by the nature itself in the black-lipped oyster. The colours possibilities are ahead of the control of the farmers doing the oyster farming. However, few oyster farming theories suggest that the trace elements present in the water where the oyster grows might be the reason for varied body colours and overtones.

Shape : It is first and fore most characteristic of the pearls that ought to be studied by the buyer at the time of the purchase. There are five distinctive shapes of the Tahitian pearls.

Round – This shape had, is and always shall be most in demand. It is completely round sphere with diameter variation less than 2%. Perfect round shapes are procured rarely.

Semi-round – It is also round but a little imperfect in shape. The diameter variation rate varies from 2 -5 %. It is also known as off round or near round. To differentiate between round and semi-round shape, roll the pearl on the flat tabletop. If it rolls straight in one direction then it is round and if it deviates from the straight line it is semi round in shape.

Semi-baroque – This shape is not round but has as a minimum of one axis of rotation so that it could spin on a flat surface. It is could be found in four different shapes viz. pear, teardrop, oval or button.

Circled – This shape contains idiosyncratic bands, streaks, rings or grooves perpendicular to an axis of rotation of the pearl. These rings cover more than 75% of the pearl’s surface. Out of the total harvested cultured pearls this shape accounts for 30%.

Baroque – It is always irregular that consist of no symmetry. It cannot be spin at all as it does not have any axis of rotation.

Price : Price is ascertained from the surface quality, size, colour and shape. It decreases from quality A to quality D. The cost increases with the increase in the size of the pearl. Slight increases of minor 1mm can also make the cost increase drastically. Body colours with overtones are priced more than the pearls with plain body colour. Finally the perfect round is priced maximum and minimum for baroque shape. Black pearls are very precious and thus are expensive. However, it could meet all the budget restrictions. For example when it comes to reduce the price with the compromise in one of the characteristic then it should be shape. Shape is important but it does not affect the durability but only the look. Further, when all the pearls are strung together in the string the shape of the single pearl is not even noticeable. In case of jewelries holding single pearl the defect in the shape is veiled at the back and covered with the metal.
Occurrence : Pearls are produced in the womb of black lipped oyster. It is the miraculous amalgamation of animal and mineral cultivated by man. The farming of oyster requires stacks of care like when weather is stormy it needs to be engrossed in the lagoon where as during the summers it needs to be taken to the cooler place. The farmers coddle oysters as their own babies. Oysters are grown for minimum two years. At the time of harvesting barely 30% of the oysters cultured generate a pearl. The by-products of cultured pearl harvesting are mother-of-pearls as well as Keshi and Mabe. These are widely used for decorative purpose and jewelry like earrings, pendants, rings and broaches.

Imitations : Artificially black colored pearls are created but they lack the natural bright colour and high luster as that of original pearls. However, to produce something identical to Tahiti black cultured pearl is very difficult. To shun every single chance of getting befooled, make the purchase only from the truthful and reputable dealers.

Precautions : Black pearls are the most delicate darlings. In order to enjoy wearing pearls for the lifetime several precautions and care is required. Woman those who sweat a lot should avoid wearing pearl jewelry on a regular basis and must wear it occasionally. The acid present in the sweat ruins the durability, luster and shape of the pearl. It should be protected from vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, cleaning agents like detergents or soap etc. and cosmetics such as hair sprays, perfumes and bleaches etc. Exposure to excessive heat could dry it off and make it prone to splits/cracks. Always ensure to remove it before going for a swim or wearing the dress made up rough fabric like Shetland wool etc.

At the time of taking off the pearl jewelry always clutch the shank or metal part instead of the pearl. This would evade the probability of loosening of pearl from the jewelry. After the use the pearls must be cleaned with the damped cloth. Once in a while it can be dipped in the slight salty water and polished with the drop of olive oil to maintain its luster. Home ultrasonic cleaner, steam cleaning and toothbrush are absolutely no-no for cleaning. Finally it must be stored in a separate jewelry pouch made up of soft cloth. Storing in any jewelry box is not recommendable as after some time due to lack of air pearls could get dry and be prone to breaks. Pearl necklace must not be worn when the string is soggy because then string gets dirty soon and cleaning it is very difficult. With the purpose to avoid the likelihood of loosing the necklace always restrung it once in the year. These precautions would enable you to retain the pearl and its jewelry.

Hard work, patience and utmost care gets paid off when mesmerizing black pearl is obtained. Farmers pamper black lipped oysters like infants then the amazing pearls comes into existence so we who own these pearls must continue to take care of these pearls like our own babies. Exquisite jewelries are created using it that makes the women look elegant and gorgeous. So be a good caretaker and look beautiful always.

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