Tahiti Acts to Support Pearl Market


July 30, 2001

Tahiti Acts to Support Pearl Market

Citing an average 40% drop worldwide in the price of Tahitian cultured black pearls over the past year and a threat to the economic development of French Polynesia, the French Polynesian Assembly announced new pearl export procedures to be inaugurated Aug. 1. The measures are aimed at restoring market confidence in the value of Tahitian cultured pearls and include a new tax, a minimum nacre thickness and a ban on exports to the Cook Islands.

A New Tax
Begining in September, export taxes on pearls will be increased from 160 French Pacific francs (U.S. $1.20) per exported gram to 200 francs (U.S. $1.50) per gram.

Minimum Nacre Thickness
Starting Sept. 1, all exported pearls must have a minimum nacre thickness of 0.6 mm. That minimum standard will be increased to 0.8 mm by July 2002. The Assembly voted that these minimum prerequisites are needed for the official label "Tahiti Cultured Pearl" to be applied. The move requires that the mollusks that produce Tahitian cultured pearls, the Pinctada Margaretifera and the Cumingii, 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.

Cook Islands Asked to Ban Tahitian Pearl Imports
Citing the sale of cheap, low-quality pearls to tourists visiting the Cook Islands (in southwest French Polynesia), a 100% ban has been placed on the export of pearls from Tahiti 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." The actions mark the first time in the 25-year history of the Tahitian cultured pearl business the Assembly has intervened to define standards in the cultivation of pearls.

- by Robert Weldon, G.G.