By Åse Anderson
Dramatic and daring, yet with an elegantly timeless quality, this season’s black Tahitian pearl jewellery is tempting us over to the dark side. Produced by black-lipped oysters, Pinctada margaritifera, which live beneath the surface of the South Pacific around the islands of French Polynesia, their colours vary from white to black, with a rainbow of hues in between.
Despite being referred to as black pearls, really dark Tahitian pearls, like the ones in this Tiffany pearl necklace from the Blue Book collection, are extremely rare and therefore incredibly valuable.
Ranging in size from 8mm to 18mm, Tahitian pearls have a thick, durable nacre and are renowned for their high lustre. First cultivated for commercial purposes in 1965, pearl farms are now dotted throughout the shallow lagoons that surround the islands of French Polynesia, and the pearl industry accounts for more than half of the country’s annual exports of $20 million.
Both men and women have worn Tahitian pearl jewellery since the 17th century and, recently, these dark wonders of the sea have been embraced by a new generation as an edgier alternative to traditional white pearls. Whether combined with white gold and diamonds for a monochromatic look as in these YOKO London pearl earrings, or encased in yellow gold in these pretty Coomi earrings, Tahitian pearls have an air of mystique and elegance.
Contemporary jewellery designers often play with the colours and shapes to create pearl jewellery with a very current feel. Both Anthony Lent and Jordan Alexander have used Tahitian pearls in different hues to lend texture and colour to their creations, while the silvery blue gems in the pearl necklace by Jemma Wynne create a fabulous contrast against the yellow gold.
For added visual appeal, the freeform shape of baroque Tahitian pearls gives a tactile, organic quality to both the minimalist pearl bracelet by Mizuki, and the more opulent Savannah Stranger pearl earrings.