While in the Cook Islands you must visit one of the many outlets that sell the famous black pearls. The Black Lipped Mother of Pearl Shell is indigenous to the atolls of the Cook Islands and lagoons of French Polynesia.

Today the Cook Islands are the centre of the world’s pearl industry. The modern day pearl farming is based in the beautiful azure lagoons of Manihiki and Penrhyn in the Northern Group.

Originally the pearls were farmed for their large size and fabulous colour. Black pearl shell was used mainly for inlays in furniture and buttons. It was by accident that large black pearls were sent to the aristocracy of Europe to be incorporated in to royal jewellery. Hence the era of the black pearl was born.

Black pearls are farmed commercially and producing just one pearl takes an investment of up to five years of hard work between man and nature.

When buying pearls it is advisable to ensure that the seller supplies a certificate of authenticity. There are generally five criteria which are taken into account when determining the grade and value of the black pearl. Size, colour, lustre, shape and surface.

Most of the shops are owned by the families that farm the pearls. They can advise you on your black pearl purchases.