The History of the Black Pearl

A jewelry type that will never go out of style is pearls. This gemstone is known for its timeless and lustrous beauty, and you can find it in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, all of which suit everyone’s fashion taste and age.

Although white pearls are the most classic and popular type of pearls among jewelry lovers, a lot of people opt for black pearls as they’re often seen as mysterious and unique. Although white pearls are considered a true symbol of elegance, sophistication, and purity, there is something mysterious about black pearls that make them the second most sought-after pearl type in the jewelry market.

But how they came about still remains unknown to many. Follow this guide to learn everything you need to know about black pearls and why they should be part of your jewelry collection.

The History of the Black Pearl
Photo by The Globe and Mail 

History of black pearls

Although natural black pearls were known for centuries, they were extremely rare. Because of that, different cultures across the globe have created many legends and myths about these amazing creations of Mother Nature.

For example, one legend says that the first known black pearl necklace, which is more than 500 years old, was once owned by Queen Isabella of Spain. The magnificent necklace was inherited by Queen Isabella II, which she sold at an auction in 1875 after she abdicated her throne. This necklace was made up of 44 natural black pearls ranging in size from 6.5-13.8 mm.

This takes us to the other myth about the history of black pearls which states that the wife of Napoleon III, Empress Eugine, was the respective buyer of Queen Isabella II’s pearl necklace. It is known that Empress Eugine had a black pearl necklace in her collection which was later sold for $20,000 after the fall of Napoleon III.

Origin of black pearls

Natural black pearls are the only ones that come from the black-lipped oyster Pinctada margaritifera, which is found in the tropical waters of French Polynesia. They are the rarest of all pearl types, which is why pearl cultivation was introduced to the islands in the late 1960s and 1970s. The cultivated black pearls were sold and traded in Tahiti after harvesting, which is how they got their common name Tahitian pearls.

However, Tahitian pearls aren’t the famous black pearls of antiquity as that distinction belongs to the pearls from the Gulf of Mexico.

According to Polynesian legends, there was the God of war, peace, and fertility, known as Oro. He fell in love with the beautiful princess of Bora Bora and sent a rainbow of light down to the island to give him the most valuable treasure the heavens could offer—Pue Rava, a colorful, black Tahitian pearl.

Another Polynesian legend about black pearls is about the full moon rising from the sky to soak in the ocean. The Te Ufi, Tahitian pearl oysters, were attracted to the heavenly light and came to the surface of the ocean. They were covered in shimmering dew, bright and iridescent hues like violet, green, yellow, gold, and blue.

Black pearl coloration

A common misconception people have about black pearls is that they go through a very mysterious cultivation process. The truth is these pearls are formed as any other pearl type except there is a slight difference in their coloration.

For example, Tahitian pearls turn out black due to the nacre of the black-lipped oyster which has a thick black band. However, not every oyster can produce a black pearl. Most pearls come out with a wide range of hues, with purple, green, and blue being among the most common ones. This is one of the reasons why black pearls are considered the most mysterious and exotic out of all pearl types.

The History of the Black Pearl
Photo by Women Triangle

Final thoughts

If you are a true fan of pearls, then learning about the history, origin, and coloration of black pearls is definitely intriguing. Out of the various pearl types available on the market, black pearls seem to be the second most popular choice, due to their unique appearance, darker shades, and interesting history.

If you want to know more about this beautiful gem, be sure to return to our post and read about the amazing history of black pearls.