Professional Jeweler Archive: Tahiti Acts to Support Pearl Market

November 2001

Gemstones & Pearls/News

Tahiti Acts to Support Pearl Market

Government tries to ensure quality

Citing an average 40% drop in the price of black Tahitian cultured pearls over the past year and a threat to the economic development of French Polynesia, the French Polynesian Assembly has inaugurated new pearl export procedures. The measures include a new tax, a minimum nacre thickness and a ban on exports to the Cook Islands.

Beginning in September, export taxes on pearls were increased from 160 French Pacific francs (U.S. $1.20) per exported gram to 200 francs (U.S. $1.50) per gram.

Also since September, all exported pearls must have a minimum nacre thickness of 0.6mm. That minimum increases to 0.8mm by July 2002. This means the mollusks that produce Tahitian cultured pearls – the Pinctada Margaretifera and the Cumingi – must remain in a French Polynesian lagoon for a minimum 18-month cultivation period. Exporters will be asked to present all pearls to the Tahitian Pearl Department and fill out a classification chart for the pearls. The government will pay exporters 50 French Pacific francs per gram for rejected pearls, up to 10% of the weight of pearls approved for export.

Citing the sale of cheap, low-quality pearls to tourists visiting the Cook Islands (in southwest French Polynesia), the government also placed a 100% ban on the export of pearls to the Cook Islands.

French Polynesian President Gaston Flosse, also head of the newly created Tahitian Pearl Ministry, reportedly took these measures to keep mediocre pearls off the world market. “It is an important first step that we must urgently take,” he says. “I’m convinced it will allow us to rapidly and appreciably improve the situation.”

– by Robert Weldon, G.G.

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications