FAQs about Tahitian Pearls

The Tahitian Pearl

Is there any official classification specific to the black pearl?

Yes, there is an official classification specific to the Tahiti Pearl according to the regulation in force in French Polynesia. All SIBANI Jewelry boutiques and outlets issue B.E.E.P. certificates for every purchase of “pearl jewelry” or loose pearls. The B.E.E.P is a private laboratory that guarantees the origin and authenticity of loose pearls and pearl jewelry based on classification criteria in accordance with Parliament regulation No. 2001-88 APF.

What is the B.E.E.P.?

The Pearl Expertise and Valuation Office is an independent laboratory that guarantees the strict inspection of each pearl sold by accredited jewelers. The B.E.E.P. issues a certificate of origin and authenticity recognized worldwide to pearls professionals and clients wishing to purchase pearls or Tahitian pearl jewelry. The B.E.E.P. guarantees the origin of the pearl, according to the criteria of classification in accordance with the Parliament regulation (No. 2001-88 APF) and determines the commercial value of the pearls and jewelry at the various stages of their commercialization.
For more information, please consult the Pearl Expertise and Valuation Office. NOTE: Some so-called “Tahiti pearls” from Asia undergo processing in order to make certain surface imperfections disappear and in order to modify their colors. These pearls cannot be considered as real Tahiti pearls.

Is the pearl a living organism?

The pearl consists of crystals of Aragonite bound by an organic substance, Conchiolin, which contains water. It is thus necessary for the pearl to be hydrated so that it does not crack. Upon contact with the acidity of the skin or detergents, the pearl can tarnish. For these reasons, the pearl is generally regarded as a living organism, and it should therefore be taken care of as such.

Are all our pearls x-rayed?

The Tahiti Cultured Pearls sold in SIBANI Jewelers boutiques and in jewelry stores accredited by the B.E.E.P. are x-rayed in order to determine the thickness of the mother-of-pearl layer. Legislation applicable in French Polynesia imposes a layer of 0.8 mm thickness of mother-of-pearl since 2002, but this rule applies only to exported pearls. In other words, thousands of successive layers must cover the nucleus perfectly. It should be noted that this regulation is not compulsory for pearls sold on the local market. Generally, no guarantee is given in non-accredited shops.

How can the price differences among the various varieties of pearl be explained?

The price difference among the different varieties of pearls can generally be explained by two main factors: The number of nuclei or grafts implanted in the oyster The average period of incubation Akoya pearls of Japanese and Chinese origin are therefore often less expensive than Tahitian Cultured Pearls because their oysters can receive up to five nuclei and their period of incubation is two to three times shorter.

What specific care do pearls require?

Please consult the “Caring for Pearls” section to find out how to care for pearls.

Are natural pearls still found in Polynesia?

Yes, the “Pinctada Margaritifera” produces pearls called “Keishi”. The foreign body in it can be a tiny stone, a piece of coral or, quite simply a graft, which remained in the oyster at the time when the oyster rejected the nucleus. Some “Poe Pipi” is also produced by the mother-of-pearl “Pinctada Maculata”. They are very small and generally yellow-gold in color.

Does this oyster exist elsewhere in the world?

Yes, “Pinctada Margaritifera” is cultivated in other areas of the Southern Pacific, such as Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Cook islands. However, the pearl production in these countries is marginal when compared to French Polynesia.

Are other types of pearls produced in Polynesia?

No, but research is currently underway to improve the quality of future productions.

What is the impact of pearl farming on the economic activity in French Polynesia?

French Polynesia is by far the leading producer of “South Sea” Black Pearls (i.e. pearls resulting from the culture of Pinctada Margaritifera), representing over 90% of world production. Total pearl production in Polynesia, all varieties included, represents 25% of the world pearl market.

What are the key figures of the sector?

French Polynesia is by far the leading producer of “South Sea” Black Pearls (i.e. pearls resulting from the culture of Pinctada Margaritifera), representing over 90% of world production. Total pearl production in Polynesia, all varieties included, represents 25% of the world pearl market. In 2002, exports of loose Tahiti pearls rose to nearly 15 billion Pacific Francs (€125,000,000) for eleven tons, i.e. an increase of 4% compared to 2001 sales. In 1999, French Polynesia became the number one cultured pearls exporter in the world, ahead of Australia.
Pearl production is the first export sector and the second source of income for French Polynesia (after tourism). Pearl production and all related activity account for roughly 90% of total exports of local products in value. The main purchasing countries are Japan, Hong Kong and the United States.

Which is the largest pearl on record?

The pearl of Allah found in 1934 is the largest pearl ever found. It weighs 7 kg and measures 22.5 cm with a diameter of 12.5 cm.


How does one become a grafter?

In Polynesia, a school created to train our future sea farmers now makes it possible for several islanders to receive training in pearls production. Polynesians have now become very skilled grafters. Japanese or Chinese grafters are still found in certain pearl farms.

What does the graft do?

The graft enables the process of secretion of mother-of-pearl around nucleus to start.

Is the nucleus always round?

The size of nucleus does not allow for the insertion of several intruders within the Pinctada Margaritifera pearl oysters. With over one nucleus, rejection or death of the animal is common.

Why aren’t all pearls beautiful?

Although they are cultured pearls, only Nature can decide on their beauty. Pearl farmers do their utmost to obtain optimal quality. It is impossible to know the quantity and quality of pearls harvested in advance.

Is the quality of the pearls produced by the same oyster consistent?

In general, the first graft produces pearls of higher quality in terms of luster. Subsequent grafts (up to two additional ones) produce pearls of larger sizes; however, the quality of the luster decreases progressively.


Why are there so few round pearls?

The oyster secretes nacre according to the currents and the layers of nacre around its nucleus. The very nature of its production cannot be compared to a standard mechanical production.

What gives color to the black pearls?

Color depends on two main factors: the origin of the graft, and the quality of lagoon water in terms of mineral salts, plankton content, and temperature. A mysterious combination of all of these factors makes each pearl color unique.

Do you produce white pearls?

The colors of the Tahitian Cultured Pearls vary from glossy white to anthracite black, with an incredible variation of iridescent color tones in between the two

How many layers of mother-of-pearl have must cover a nucleus to ensure that the pearl is solid?

Legislation applicable in French Polynesia imposes a mother-of-pearl layer of 0.8 mm in thickness since 2002 (representing thousands of successive layers) to cover the nucleus perfectly. This legislation becomes stricter every year.


What do you do with oysters after their period of production?

They are used by the craft industry, in particular in the fabrication of buttons.

Does oyster cultivation pollute the lagoons?

Pearl cultivation does not require the use of chemical products that are harmful to the lagoon. Possible waste-matter such as natural parasites, are removed regularly from mother-of-pearl and put back into the high seas.