Tahitian pearls come in a myriad of variations: size, luster, color (oh, what color!), and the most readily apparent to the naked eye: shape. It is rather helpful then, when describing the shapes of Tahitian pearls, to have a consistent language that may be collectively shared and understood.
Of course, Tahitian pearls hail from the islands of French Polynesia, but pearl jewelry connoisseurs and collectors may be found the world over. How do these pearl lovers know what they are buying? When describing the shapes of Tahitian pearls, we turn to the approved language as adopted by the French Polynesian government. What better authority could there be?
According to the government-sanctioned grading system, all Tahitian pearls may be categorized into one of five categories: round, semi-round, semi-baroque, baroque and circlé. Round pearls are unquestionably the most valuable (all other factors being equal). Production statistics tell us that round pearls account for less than 5 percent of any given harvest. The designation ‘round’ comes with a touch of subjectivity, as any pearl within a 2 percent deviation of perfectly round may adopt the title. These deviations are almost imperceptible to the untrained eye.
If a pearl should appear to slightly wobble when rolled, it’s likely to be off round. These pearls, which deviate 3 to 5 percent from perfect roundness, are aptly named semi-round. This category of shapes of Tahitian pearls includes pearl drops (formed like a tear), buttons, ovals, and pear shapes. If any of these pearl shapes feature banding, lines or grooves that encircle the pearl perpendicular to the axis and cover at least 30 percent of the pearl’s surface, they are more properly termed circlé. Circlés account for nearly 35 percent of the harvest.
One of the more fascinating and individualistic shapes of Tahitian pearls is called baroque, a name given to pearls that lack any axis of symmetry. No matter which angle or side you measure, you’ll always record a different result. These truly are one-of-a-kind pearls that can be a scintillating addition to the jewelry box. The most important factor when selecting from among the different shapes of Tahitian pearls is to decide what you like best. Excellent color or luster can make any shape a knockout statement in style.