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Tahitian pearls wholesale : POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

Tahitian pearls wholesale: POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS

wa mj ar pearls wholesaleHistorically, natural black pearls have been one of the rarest and most exotic of gem materials. In the 1960s, however, a black-pearl culturing industry was initiated. Today, cultured black pearls play a prominent role throughout the international jewelry community. This article reviews the history of Polynesian black pearls, the development of culturing and the techniques involved, grading, treatments and identification, and the factors responsible for their growing popularity in the 1980s. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

The 1980s have seen an explosion of interest in the cultured blaclz pearls of French Polynesia, five groups of island archipelagos in the South Pacific. Twenty years ago, blaclz pearls were a mere curiosity appreciated by a handful of people. Today, cultured black pearls, often called Tahitian pearls or Tahitian cultured pearls, can be found in fine jewelry stores throughout the world. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

The large black-lipped oyster that produces black pearls, Pinctada marguritifera, is found in the coastal waters of Peru, Baja California, Panama, Indonesia Lombok Pearls, Micronesia, the Red Sea, the Philippines, and Olzinawa (a prefecture of Japan), as well as French Polynesia. Yet natural blaclz pearls are extremely rare compared to their white counterparts. In the 1960s, however, with the aid of Japanese technicians, pearl farmers in French Polynesia mastered the culturing of blaclz pearls. Like the natural black pearls, the Polynesian cultured pearls are large and often noted for their superb luster and orient, as well as for the unusual gray-to-black range of color (figure 1). To this day, the vast majority of black-pearl culturing is in Polynesia. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

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With the greater availability of black pearls has emerged a broader market in the jewelry industry, as is evidenced by their regular presence both in retail stores and at auction. Problems have also arisen, such as concern that the pearls might have been dyed or irradiated (Maitlins and Bonanno, 1987). To provide a better understanding of this exotic material, this article will review the history, biology, and culturing of blaclz pearls. It will also describe grading parameters and how to detect treatments used on pearls from other mollusl~sto mimic the Polynesian blacks and, more recently, on some Polynesian cultured pearls as well. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

THE SOURCE: FRENCH POLYNESIA – Tahitian pearls wholesale

Midway between Australia and North America-at approximately 17 south latitude and 151′ west longitude-is a group of 130 islands known as French Polynesia (see figure 2). This land mass of 1,550 square miles (9,600 lzm2) is divided into five archipelagos: the Society Islands, the Leeward Islands, the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Gambier Islands, and the Australes. The blaclz pearls are cultivated primarily in the lagoons of the Tuamotu Archipelago (figure 3) and the Gambier Islands, the waters of which have been found to provide a perfect environment for P. margaritifera (Salomon and Roudnitslza, 1986). (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)


The shell of P. margaritifera was treasured by native Polynesians long before the European explorers arrived. According to Tahitian legends, blaclz pearls were considered to be emanations from the gods. One important god, Oro, traveled to earth by means of his rainbow, which was believed to be the source of the iridescence in the pearl and its shell (Salomon and Roudnitslza, 1986). In September 1513, Spanish explorer Vasco Nufiez de Balboa (1475-1519) first arrived in what is now French Polynesia and claimed the group of islands for Spain. Later, European sailors recounted in their logs and diaries the abundance of giant mollusks in the warm, shallow waters of the South Sea islands, and the ease with which they could be retrieved (Lintilhac, 1987). Unfortunately, little is known about how the pearls were used by native Polynesians or the early European visitors. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

The earliest record of shell jewelry dat(Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)es from 1722, when Roggeveen, a Dutch navigator, noted that the people wore silver disks in their ears and pendants of mother-of-pearl (see figure 4). Some of the ceremonial uses included decorating robes with shells and filling eyes in sculpture with mother-of-pearl. Kunz and Stevenson (1908) describe how Tahiti’s monarch Queen Pomare played marbles with blaclz pearls in the early 1800s. In 1842, Polynesia became a protectorate of France, ending over 300 years of conflict with other European countries. During the 19th century, navigators from France, England, the Netherlands, and elsewhere traded flour, cloth, nails, and alcohol to the divers for mother-of-pearl shells that they used in jewelry, as inlay in furniture, and as buttons. They also brought back pearls, some of which were undoubtedly incorporated into fine jewelry. A few historically important natural black-pearl pieces are lznown today, although the source of the pearls cannot always be established. (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

In May 1989, for example, Christie’s Geneva auction sold (for $104,310) a stunning fringe necklace of 35 graduated natural blaclz, silver, and gray pearls that had belonged to the Spanish ambassador to Russia, the Duke of Osuna, in the 1850s. Twining (1960) describes “The Azra” black pearl, part of a famous necklace in the Russian crown jewels that eventually came into the possession of the Youssoupoff family. Another black pearl on a diamond necklace that had once been owned by the Youssoupoff family was auctioned for $130,000 by Christie’s in 1980. The April 1984 Christie’s auction of jewels from the estate of Florence J. GoulcI featured a period piece with natural gray pearls set in a dramatic diamond, platinum, and white gold brooch [figure 5). (Detail info: tahitian pearls wholesale)

The 1840s were marked by heavy harvesting of the black- lipped oyster. By 1850, reports indicated concern that the oysters were becoming scarce and had to be recovered from greater depths of water (Lintilhac, 1987). As the overharvesting progressed, the French government intervened by establishing seasonal diving periods. By 1885, the French government realized that the pearling industry would not survive in the South Sea islands unless more dramatic steps were taken. The government then hired biologists to determine ways to replenish l? margaritifera, One of these biologists, Bouchon Brandely, suggested a strict prohibition on fishing in certain oysterbearing lagoons. More importantly, he recommended collecting spats, or young oysters, and placing them in a protected area. The resulting concentration of oysters created an ideal environment for reproduction, so much so that even today, spat cultivating is the primary way of guaranteeing the oyster population. (data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale)

At the time Bouchon Brandely suggested cultivating spats, the economic impetus was the demand for mother-of-pearl; any pearls found were simply by-products. Black pearls did not become more than an attractive oddity until culturing in P. inargaritifera was achieved in the 1960s. Early in that decade, French veterinarian Jean Marie Domard
began to study culturing; in 1962, he brought Figure 6. These baroque cultured blaclz pearls (the largest is 16 x 8 mm) came from the first harvest of the Rosenthal farm on Manihi Atoll. Courtesy of John Latendresse; photo by Robert Weldon. a Japanese specialist to Polynesia, who implanted 5,000 oysters. By 1965, they had obtained 1,000
gem-quality cultured blaclz pearls (Lintilhac, 1987). (data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale)

The first pearl farm in French Polynesia was started in 1966 on the Manihi Atoll in the lkamotu Archipelago by Hubert and Jacques Rosenthal, grandsons of “pearl king” Leonard Rosenthal, author (1920) and scion of a French jewelry family known for their fabulous pearl jewels. The Tahitian government encouraged the Rosenthals to help develop the culturing industry in Polynesia. Through the efforts of Japanese specialist Renji Wada and site manager Kolzo Chaze, the farm was in full operation by 1968 (figure 6). It continues today, managed by Leonard’s great grandson, Cyril Rosenthal. Over the course of the next 20 years, culturing developed into a viable export industry as the technical expertise evolved to produce large, fine-quality blaclz pearls for the jewelry community. (data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale)

Articles source: POLYNESIAN BLACK PEARLS, By Marisa Goebel and Dona Mary Dirlam. (data source: Tahitian pearls wholesale)
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