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Le Musée de la Nacre et de la Tabletterie est ouvert tous les jours de 14h30 à 18h30 sauf le Mardi.
Visites guidées et démonstration à 15h et 16h15.

This module can not work without the Hikashop Component



Exposure Pearl and Tahitian Pearls
Exposure Pearl and Tahitian Pearls
25.05.2012 - 14.10.2012
Musée de la Nacre et de la Tabletterie - Méru


Commissionership : Lionel Mignot

Since Antiquity, pearls have always been fascinating objects, nourishing legends and beliefs. For the Romans, pearls were Gods’ petrified tears, for the Greeks they were lightning’s pieces fallen in the sea, while in China pearls were said to be the oyster’s soul. Initially exploited in Mesopotamia and in Asia 5 000 years before our era, then cultivated firstly by the Chinese, the pearl has become a sign of pomp and wealth.
During the Renaissance, pearls of India and later those of Tahiti, are used as sets of jewels by monarchs and the European nobility. 

Either fine (that is to say ensuing from natural origin) or as the outcome of farming, pearls result from the introduction of a foreign body between the internal wall of the shell and the mantle of a mollusc. To protect itself from an intruder, the shellfish coats it with a multitude of mother of pearl’s layers. This series of layers hence gives pearls their forms and shines. Tahitian pearls comes from the secretions of a particular pearl oysters’ species called Pinctada Margaritifera, variety Cumingii. We find this mollusc with its black lips in the warm and limpid water of lagoons, where it lives fixed on coral reefs. 

The trade of fine Tahitian pearls is associated with the first European sailors’ arrival in the 16th century. Before, rare and difficult to find, pearls were used by Polynesians for earrings sets, ceremonial clothes, barter or diplomatic exchanges.
The mother of pearl shell was useful to make fish-hooks, tools or ornament objects.
Turned little by little into a trade object, pearl oyster is exported for the buttons’ confection or marquetry. At the end of the 18th century, Tuamotu and Gambier’s atolls become the centre of the “mothers of pearl’s diving” leading deep changes in the Polynesian society. Polynesian practising apnoea move from Island to Island to dive down to 40 meter. 


The 20th century marks a turning point for the activity. Napoléon the third and empress Eugénie’ s interest for fine Tahitian pearls entails the control taken by the French administration over this trade and its diving techniques. A century later, the result is the overexploitation of the natural reserves which forces local authorities to introduce fishing quotas and to establish farming in lagoons. Year 1961 marks the beginnings of cultured pearlwith the first artificial graft in Polynesia. In 1988, the denomination “Tahitian Pearl” is acquired administratively speaking. It hence becomes for the specialists of the whole world “the Pearl of the Queens and the Queen of the Pearls ». 


This exhibition proposes a journey in the Tahitian history though the use of pearls but also to dive into the French Polynesia waters towards the discovery of these gems. This diving initiates the visitor into biomineralization, pearls’ formation, their different colours, the mother of pearl’s structure, sea pearl molluscs and their ecosystem, their use though centuries, fishing and pearls culture, the establishment of a mother ofpearl and fine pearls industry, the birth of cultured pearl… 
Mother of pearl objects and pearls come from many Tahitian or European museum. Some items are exceptional and extremely rare. Presented objects attest of age-old activities that are today an essential part of Polynesian culture and heritage. 
détails d'haliotide