Take home from the Cook Islands the most romantic souvenir of all that captures the beauty and magic of the islands – a Cook Islands’ black pearl. Lustrous, precious pearls are indigenous to the Cook Islands, and the black pearl is unique to French Polynesia and the Northern Group of the Cook Islands. The Cook Islands’ pearl farming is the nation’s second largest industry. The northern islands of Manihiki and Penryhn are world famous for producing this sensuous beauty in the clear, unpolluted waters of the lagoons.
The beautiful atoll of Manihiki is the cultured black pearl capital of the Cook Islands and produces pearls that become centrepieces for fine jewellery worn worldwide. Another extremely rare pearl found in the Cook Islands is the natural Golden Pearl. Grown in the lagoon of Penryhn from the smallest pearl producing shell in the world, it rarely grows larger than eight millimetres.
The pearl farming process involves the young oysters or ‘spats’ being harvested and selected for farming. A bead is then nucleated (seeded) inside the oyster and the oysters are hung out on a line. Twice a year the oysters are cleaned to allow for optimal nutrient flow to the pearl. Over time, often several years, the bead is coated with a nacre finish naturally created by the oyster. A beautiful black pearl is then removed and harvested.
There are a number of factors to consider when purchasing a pearl. A valuable pearl has an unblemished surface clear of imperfections such as cracks, bumps and holes. The pearl’s lustre complements the surface quality. Brilliant reflectivity of an unblemished pearl is considered the finest quality of pearl. When it comes to the size of a pearl, the-bigger-the-better is a general rule to go by.
The largest black pearl that was ever found measured 25 millimetres though most of the pearls today measure somewhere between seven and seven and a half millimetres. An average pearl like this takes two to three years to develop with bigger pearls taking considerably longer. However, it is a risk farming larger pearls because the bigger a pearl grows, the harder it is to maintain a perfect spherical shape. Pearls range in colour from a refined white to a ravishing black, encompassing silver, cream, gold, green and blue.
Across the world there are also burgeoning markets for the keshi and poppy seed pearls that have 100 percent nacre and a lustrous finish. These pearls are less symmetrical than standard pearls, and are relatively less expensive.
For more information, log on to http://www.avaikipearls.com/