Pitufa.at » Photo Galleries » Gambier Islands--Home of the Black Pearls

All around the world they are sold as 'Tahiti Pearls', but in fact most of the famous black pearls are grown in the lagoons of the Gambier and the Tuamotus. We visited Eric's pearl farm and Rikitea's engraving school in March 2015.

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1/27: Eric's pearl farm is on Motu Tarauru-Roa, south-east of the airport.
2/27: He calls his company simply 'Gambier Pearls'.
3/27: He provides houses for his eight permanent workers.
4/27: Eric takes us out to his buoy field.
5/27: The buoys keep the line with oyster baskets in a depth of 3 meters (shallower than at other farms).
6/27: The oysters need to be cleaned frequently. The shallow arrangement allows this job to be done without divers.
7/27: Eric's pearl harvesting crew.
8/27: After a year in the water, the oyster is checked.
9/27: The pearl is carefully extracted.
10/27: If the quality of the pearl was good, a new nucleus of the same size (or slightly larger) is inserted.
11/27: Nuclei from shells of Mississippi river oysters in different sizes.
12/27: A good oyster can be used up to 4 times.
13/27: Oysters with new nuclei are attached to a grid.
14/27: The non-productive ones are destroyed and eaten (typically only the muscle is eaten here).
15/27: Eric is showing the morning's harvest.
18/27: A giant of almost 16mm diameter.
20/27: Rikitea's school offers a dedicated course on engraving of pearls and mother of pearl. The training takes 2 to 5 years.
21/27: The teacher demonstrates the delicate handicraft of engraving a pearl.
23/27: The pupils choose their raw material...
24/27: ...polish the shell...
25/27: ...and engrave their self-designed pattern.
26/27: Almost finished.
27/27: Sketch versus finished piece of art.