The Origin and Main Qualities of Black Pearls

Pearls are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful types of jewelry. You can find them in many shapes, colors, and forms, all of which suit every woman’s taste and skin tone. While white pearls seem to be the most preferred pearl jewelry among fashionistas, black pearls have become a highly in-demand pearl variety in the contemporary jewelry market.

The origin and main qualities of black pearls

The main reason is that black pearls have a range of stunning dark overtones and a mysterious, yet fresh energy that makes them desirable to both jewelry collectors and modern millennials.

So, if you are looking to enrich your jewelry box with some black pearls, here is everything you need to know about their origin and main qualities.

The origin and formation of black pearls

In general, black pearls are made from the black-lipped oyster called Pinctada margaritifera, which is found in the tropical waters of French Polynesia. After harvesting, they are traded and sold in Tahiti which is how they got their common name Tahitian pearls.

Because natural black pearls are hard to find, there are pearl farmers who try to imitate the wonder of nature by surgically inserting an irritant into the oyster’s membrane. This membrane is called the nucleus, which is a small bead made out of shell or plastic. Once the insertion is done, the pearl is cared for and monitored until a nacre forms around it. This process can take several years to form a cultured black pearl.

Main qualities of black pearls


What makes these pearls special is their unique coloration that cannot be found in other pearl-producing oysters or mussels. The pearls’ predominant color is black, which is influenced by the host oyster’s shell color.

In other words, if the pearl forms near the thick band of the black-lipped oyster, it will suck up the dark coloring, resulting in a black pearl. Besides black, the pearl can also have other remarkable overtones including green, iridescent peacock green, blue, purple, gray, and brown-black.

However, there are cultured black pearls that do not achieve their black color naturally, but instead with the use of an organic dye.

Shape and size

Due to the large size of the black-lipped oyster, Tahitian black pearls are considered one of the biggest pearl types, ranging from 8 mm to 14 mm, sometimes even larger. If you happen to come across a black pearl that is around 14 mm, then you should know that this pearl is extremely high in value.

As for shape, it is important to note that black pearls aren’t perfectly round. This is mainly because it can take a couple of years for a pearl to grow, reducing the chances of it coming out with a perfectly spherical nacre. In fact, only 20% of Tahitian cultured pearls turn out to be perfectly round, making them very valuable on the market.

Other variations of black pearls include oval, drop-shaped, circle-shaped, baroque, and semi-baroque.


The luster of a pearl refers to the sheen that reflects light off the gemstone’s surface. When light reflections are bright and sharp, then the pearl’s luster is considered to be of high value. If the reflections are weak, then the pearls’ luster is called dull.

Tahitian black pearls typically have a very thick nacre that features a softer, more satin-like luster. However, most high-quality black pearls, especially those that come in smaller sizes, have a sharper reflective luster, resembling the mirror-like shine of the Japanese Akoya pearls.

Surface quality

The quality of the pearl surface is one of the most important factors for judging the value of black pearls. Quality black pearls are perfectly round with smooth, unblemished surfaces, and have intense and eye-catching dark overtones, and sharp reflective luster.

In general, four ratings are given for determining the surface quality of black pearls. These are:

  • Quality A pearls with completely smooth surfaces and good luster
  • Quality B pearls with a few imperfections and average luster
  • Quality C pearls with more imperfections and average luster
  • Quality D pearls with soft satin luster and deep dents and flaws
The origin and main qualities of black pearls

Final thoughts

Due to their unique dark coloration, luster, shape, size, and surface quality, black pearls seem to be one of the most sought-after pearls after the traditional white gemstones. These pearls are an exotic and exquisite beauty that comes from the depths of the ocean, capturing the human world by storm.

If you are just learning about black pearls, refer to our guide to read about their origin and the qualities that make them special.

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