French Polynesia


French Polynesia dominates black South Sea cultured pearl production. Pearls from Pinctada margaritifera are also frequently called Tahitian pearls. Following first successes in the 1960s the industry has grown tremendously in recent decades.
w Volume
16,7 tonnes (10,2 million pearls)*
w Value

67 million US$*

w Type of pearls

White and golden South Sea pearls

*Source: Maison de la Perle

The Pinctada margaritifera oyster, the source of many a beautiful black cultured pearl. In French Polynesia all cultured pearls stem from P. margaritifera oysters.
In order to protect oysters from predation they are hung in nets and baskets. Predation has become an increasing concern for pearl farmers in French Polynesia in recent years.
Oysters are regularly cleaned in order to ensure optimum health. Husbandry practices are a vital component of successful pearl production.
Biofouling and organisms need to be removed from shells on a regular basis.
Oyster shells need to be kept slightly open (as seen here, with a peg) in order to carry out the grafting operation.
The grafting operation is complex and requires great skill. The nucleus and the saibo (donor tissue) must be inserted exactly and care must be taken not to unnecessarily injure the oyster.
This image shows the nucleus (white) inside a lower quality pearl. The nacreous overgrowth (black) is the result of 12-24 months of growth within the oyster. In French Polynesia, a 0.8mm nacre overgrowth is necessary for a pearl to be exported.
Pearl farms as encountered in numerous lagoons of the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia.

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