Sometimes nothing gets a woman more excited than hearing that there is jewelry around. So while traveling throughout French Polynesia Jody mentioned that Tahiti and the islands surrounding it are “the place to get a black pearl”. Immediately I had to go find one. Bob and Jody talked a lot about the pearls and how finding a real one outside of the area is rare and expensive. We sailed around for a few days and by the time we would usually get to shore, the pearl farms would already be closed. There were rumors of where the cheapest pearl farm was and how to strike a deal, but our boat was already far past that point.
Eventually we docked in Bora Bora to grab some supplies (water, bread, nutella- the essentials really) and while crossing the street I ran into a young lady selling jewelry on the side of the road. I walk over to have a look (like I said- we can’t resist!) and I didn’t see much of anything. It was a simple set up, she was sitting under a rickety umbrella with a small table full of small handmade earrings and bracelets. I was on a time schedule to get back to the boat but before I left, I asked “do you have any black pearls?” To her reply “yes”. She then pulled out a small wooden box and inside were three pearls, two black and one golden. I asked how much and she said some outrageous number that I can’t even remember. As I started to walk away she said “$100” for them all. Again, this was a little out of my price rang and I said no thank you (Also, how could I know if they were real for such a cheap price?). She then said “Please, $80 for all three- that’s as low as I can go, these are good pearls from a farm my brother works at”. OK- How could I say no to that? I bought them and rushed back to the boat.
Eager to show everyone my find, I pull them out and show the ladies. They asked if they were real and of course I said “I think so”- turns out I had no clue how to tell if they were or not. That’s when I learned that you can rub them on your teeth or rub them together and if you feel a sandpaper-ish pull- they are real. If you don’t feel it and it seems smooth, they are fake. As my luck would have it- They were real! and about B+ to A- quality. What an awesome find!
But now my thirst for beautiful pearls had only grown and I insisted on visiting an actual farm to see how they are made. We visit a small farm on the island with a jewelry store in front. Once we were there of course we ended up back in the buying room. There was only one person in the shop, the other seemed to be out working. She approached us and started showing us the more expensive pearls. Just for reference, an average (like B- quality) black pearl cost about $250- not cheap at all. A trick though, is that in many places they have a pile of “less than adequate” pearls all thrown together in a bowl. You can usually pick one out and have it put on a string for about $50. So Jody and I started to pry as to where the more economical pearls were placed (otherwise we could have left with the free shells of discarded oysters). Of course went through them all and ALAS, I found another gem that seemed to have escaped and been thrown into the pile. It was a grey peacock colored pearl (She said it was D- quality but I showed it to someone else who said it was at least B quality). Jody and I bought up our pearls and headed back out to sea.
We couldn’t help but show them off from that point on. After I found them, I talked about all the beautiful jewelry I could make with my now 4 pearls once I got back… haha but they are still sitting in a bag. I take them with me wherever I go, but they usually just sit there- waiting for me to set them. I just find them so beautiful, I can’t imagine setting them in something and only wearing them on occasion. Here is a picture of three of them (I gave one of the black pearls I got to my Grandmother in Texas). Eventually I will do something with them, or perhaps I’ll just have to go back and find some more 🙂