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Why are round Tahitian pearls more expensive than Baroque pearls?

The first time an oyster is nucleated it has a 40% likelihood of producing a gem quality pearl of some shape.  But only about 5 percent of the pearls will be round.  Only 1% to 2% of the pearls harvested will be round Tahitian pearls of the top quality.  This is why round Tahitian pearls of AAA quality are more expensive than baroque shapes.

How are larger Tahitian pearls produced?

The first pearl an oyster produces is likely to be of smaller size.  If the oyster has produced a round Tahitian pearl of high quality, it is carefully removed leaving the pearl sac intact.  A new nucleus (sphere made of  shell) of the same size as the pearl that has just been removed is inserted into the pearl sac.  This allows the oyster to create a new, larger pearl.  This process may be repeated up to four times, creating very large Tahitian pearls.

Why do pearl prices increase so much with small size increments?

The first pearl produced by an oyster is more likely to be of finer quality while the oyster is young and strong.  This is why it is easier to find exceptionally beautiful AAA quality pearls in smaller sizes. The following harvests the pearls may be larger and larger but the quality may decline.  AAA Tahitian pearls that are round and of large size are therefore very rare and expensive.  Some oysters that have produced round pearls twice in succession may be returned to the wild to live out their lives as brood stock.

What should I look for in high quality Tahitian pearls?

Look for a smooth surface with few or no irregularities.  Most importantly look for very high luster.  Round pearls are worth more than other shapes, so you may want to look for pearls that are round rather than baroque, although baroque pearls are beautiful in their own right and may be preferred for certain looks.

Samples of AAA Tahitian pearl jewelry: