Exquisite Tahitian Black Pearls are among the world’s most desired and cherished gems, and the most sought after pearls on earth. There is a sensuality, mystery and allure that is timeless, universal and undeniable. Part of it is the romance and beauty of Tahiti, part the sheer magnificence of the pearls themselves, and part the irresistibility of possessing something so incomparably rare.
A single strand of 27 black cultured pearls ranging in size from 13.5 mm to 17.9 mm was sold at auction by Sotheby’s New York in 1990 for $797,500. Yes, you read that figure correctly, but the necklace did have some diamonds in it. In 1988, Sotheby’s sold another single strand of 31 pearls in graduated sizes from 11.2 mm to 14.1mm in a rare green coloration of Tahitian Black Pearls, for $159,500. And at Christie’s New York, a three-strand necklace of 37, 39 and 43 matched, round Tahitians, measuring 12.0 mm to 15.2 mm, went for $880,000.
In simple truth, there is no internationally recognized grading
system for pearls. We wish that were different, but all of us must live
with the fact that there is no standardized criteria. One dealer’s
“Triple A” quality might be someone else’s grade “C.” That means two
You should have a genuine sense of trust in the people from whom you are buying.
You should take steps to increase your knowledge so you can make informed decisions. Savage Pearls must earn your trust, but along the way, perhaps we can offer some basic factors that will help you determine whether a pearl will provide you with lasting beauty.
Never sacrifice lustrousness. It is the aesthetic factor most
responsible for giving a fine pearl its unique beauty and character.
Simply defined, lustre is the sharpness and intensity of reflected light
on a pearl’s surface.
But lustre is not enough. Savage Pearls believes you have to look way below the face of the gem to understand the elusive quality called orient.
Pearls are the result of layer upon layer of nacre (NAY-ker) building up, enveloping the transplanted nucleus. Nacre is the same crystalline substance that forms the beautiful shell linings we call “mother of pearl.” If enough layers form, and the crystals align, a prism-like effect occurs when light passes through the layers. This effect causes orient, a soft iridescent glow which looks like a diffusion of light from inside the gem.
Typically, the thicker the nacre, the better the orient. And the finer the quality of the nacre’s surface, the better the lustre.
The more orient and lustre, the more exquisite, rare and costly the pearl.
Tahitian Black Pearls typically have a velvety lustre, but sometimes the radiance is so profound it looks like the metallic sheen of a ball bearing. As to orient, an exotic and potent iridescence is characteristic.
Nacre thickness and quality impact the lasting beauty of a pearl more than any other factor. Pearls with high lustre and iridescent orient will also have desirably thick nacre. Pearls lacking a lustrous glow and prismatic surface characteristics almost certainly will have thin nacre, and will not last. Tahitian Black Pearls represent a significant investment. They should provide generations of enjoyment for their owners. So at Savage Pearls, we look for uniform iridescence and bright, intense lustre when we are combing the farm harvests of French Polynesia. Tahitian Black Pearls are our sole business. We guarantee your satisfaction by offering to replace any piece that does not completely please you.
Perfection is a quality always sought, but rarely encountered. And when you find it, it comes at a very dear price. We are always searching for pearls with a “skin” as free of minor welts, blisters, pimples, cracks and bumps as possible. But blemish-free surfaces are rare. Our eyes are trained to avoid “large and numerous,” and concentrate on “few and small.” Ideally, we hide blemishes in a jeweler’s drill hole or in a setting. When examining a pearl for unsightly imperfections, check it out under both diffused and bright light sources. Inspect it against a contrasting background, rolling the gem on a flat surface. Let the light play on each hemisphere. Then examine your own face in one of those magnifying mirrors. There won’t be a thing we can do about the flaws in your skin. But if the level of perfection of any Savage pearl fails to meet your expectations, we will replace it or reimburse you. Your choice.
Round. Perfectly spherical. That’s always been the ideal. But
absolutely round pearls, like those with utterly unblemished surfaces,
are seriously scarce and very costly, unless, of course, they lack
lustre and orient. At Savage, we count seven basic shapes of Tahitian
Black Pearls. In terms of cost, the lower the number, the higher the
price; the lower numbers being more rare:
Tahitian Black Pearls are typically larger than cultured saltwater pearls from Australia, Japan, China and elsewhere in Asia. As with the others, the larger the Tahitian, the greater the cost. Cultured pearls are sold by size, as calculated in millimeters. To help with perspective, the Japanese Akoya, the classic round, white pearl, typically ranges in size from 2.0 mm (very small) to 8.0 mm (very large). There is a dramatic jump in price for Akoya pearls exceeding 7.5 mm. Tahitian Black Pearls typically range from 8.0 mm to 12.0 mm, with prices increasing disproportionately from 12 mm to 15 mm, and more dramatically as size exceeds 15 mm. Because they are rarer, they are more valuable. It would not be unusual for a single 11.0-11.5 mm Tahitian Black Pearl to be more costly than an 18” strand of cultured saltwater pearls of the same quality from Japan.
First, the term “black” is a bit of a misnomer. Most of the Tahitian Black Pearls we use in Savage Pearls jewelry really display themselves in shades of gray. But there’s a vivid green with a magenta overtone that people refer to as a “peacock” color. Then the reverse of that, called “eggplant,” that’s magenta with green overtones. “Black” is really a term accurately describing the black-lipped oyster that produces the pearls. Some of the gems are green, olive green, blue and sometimes a light silvery green with a pale blue overtone. No wonder the Tahitians call their pearls Poe Rava, or “green black.” All of them, regardless of hue or shade, provide an unrivaled exotic allure.