Today's Market for Tahitian Pearls

Tahitian Pearls, The Early Years

Tahitian pearls retained popularity throughout the South Pacific as a gem of beauty and rarity, but the pearls were, for much of their early years, unheard of in Western markets.

Jean-Claude Brouillet Starts a Tahitian Pearl Farm

It was not until businessman Jean-Claude Brouillet purchased a South Marutea atoll and started a Tahitian pearl farm in 1975 that Tahitian pearls began to infiltrate the world market.

Brouillet began working with a well-known pearl dealer in New York by the name of Salvador Assael soon after culturing his first crop of pearls. Assael provided Brouillet with Japanese expert technicians to implement precise Japanese skill and technology into the culturing process. Brouillet's farm was soon harvesting abundant high-quality Tahitian pearls.

Robert Wan Purchased South Marutea

In 1984, Brouillet sold his South Marutea production to another well-known farmer by the name of Robert Wan. Wan was committed to bringing Tahitian pearls to the world market and making Tahitian pearls French Polynesia's top export. By 1996 Wan's production had surpassed 5,000,000 grams.

The Rise of the Industry

The rise of the Tahitian pearl industry is not without its hardships. With prices higher than those found in the Golden and White South Sea pearl industry in the 1980's, production was increased dramatically. As more farms produced more pearls more quickly than ever before, overproduction and a dramatic decrease in quality pushed prices to never before seen lows. Farms began to close, and the industry appeared to have a very bleak future.

The Tahitian Government Institutes Regulations

The Tahitian government finally stepped in with the help of Robert Wan and instituted regulations controlling not only the number of new pearl farms, but the quality of production. By requiring all exported pearls to have a nacre depth of 0.8 mm or more, the Tahitian government effectively protected the entire industry from collapsing consumer confidence.

Tahitian Pearls for the World

Robert Wan enjoyed tremendous success in popularizing Tahitian pearls and bringing the gem to the greater world. He is commonly referred to as the "Father of the Tahitian pearl" or as "Tahiti's Mikimoto", and many believe has was as important to the marketing of Tahitian pearls as Kokichi Mikimoto was to akoya pearls. To this day Wan has exclusive control over much of French Polynesia's pearl output and is constantly working with farms, government organizations, and other industry leaders to enhance the beauty, value, and reputation of the gems.
Tahitian pearl necklace from Robert Wan

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