The colourful pearls of Fiji

By Tempus | 09 May 2022 | Travel

Sustainably farmed and culturally prized, these incredible finds are a treasure in the island nation’s pristine waters

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The idyllic island nation of Fiji, located in the warm waters of the South Pacific, is renowned for its pristine diving, friendly culture, and beatific island resorts. But, deep in the ocean, there is another local treasure that is making waves on the world stage: black pearls.

Fiji is home to the rare Pinctada margaritifera- typica mollusk, a black-lipped oyster that, like its Tahitian cousin, produces exceptional coloured pearls. Native to the warm waters around the islands, the Fiji oyster is known in high jewellery circles for its vibrant colours – these extraordinary pearls are unrivalled for their vibrant shades of black, blue and aubergine to green, gold and bronze hues.

Visionary Fijian pearl farmer Justin Hunter grew up in Savusavu, where his love for the ocean took him to the US to complete a marine science degree. He later joined the family business rearing edible oysters in Washington State and Hawaii, until a conference in 1998 opened his eyes to the possibility of building a new aquaculture industry back home in Fiji: pearl farming.

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Hunter immediately returned to Savusavu and set about establishing his eponymous business – J Hunter Pearls – with a desire to cultivate these rarest of native pearls. Hunter’s 10 years of experience allowed him to take note of the obstacles his fellow pearl farmers had faced

before him; Hunter created new pearl farming techniques that focused on sustainability and conservation, as well as establishing lasting relationships with local villages to create working partnerships that benefit Fiji’s indigenous populations and protect Savusavu Bay’s pristine marine environment.

J Hunter is today known for its spectacular iridescent pearls, which are sought after by jewellers and connoisseurs around the world. The scarcity of the Fiji Pearl oyster means that less than 25,000 pearls can be harvested each year, but the small quantity makes the natural quality even more impressive.

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“The broad range of bodycolours exhibited in [a] relatively small sample set was remarkable,” reported Gem News International in 2009, and that high praise has not wavered since. J Hunter Pearls have been used in the creations of top international jewellers such as Philippe Bouasse, Gellner and JEM, Paris, as well as their own jewellery lines, of course.

Crucially, Hunter is also involved in developing Fiji’s pearl industry as whole, working to support emerging pearl farmers across the islands. This is coupled with his desire to protect and conserve the country’s stunning natural resources – a goal shared by many of Fiji’s native and adopted locals, including marine conservationist Jean-Michel Cousteau.

French oceanographic explorer, environmentalist and educator Cousteau is the eldest son of the legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, and has been diving since he was seven-years-old. He established the five- star Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort alongside Savusavu Bay in 1995, to offer guests a luxurious eco-friendly island experience that focuses on personalised Fijian service, relaxation, sumptuous cuisine, authentic culture, and exploring the unbeatable local environment.

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There, guests can enjoy the L’Aventure Cousteau Diving Centre as well as numerous on and off-site excursions, and spend time with the resort’s two resident marine biologists, who share secrets of the ocean's incredible resources and coral reefs. The resort also offers trips to the J Hunter Pearl farm – with a chance to go snorkelling to get closer to the rare oysters or swim over the protected giant clam site, where some of the most impressive and endangered bivalve mollusks are cared for.

Whether you're looking for a romantic gift or a fascinating glimpse into sealife, the rare Fiji pearls are a sight to behold.

Find out more about J Hunter Pearls at fijipearls.com and the Jean-Michel Cousteau resort at fijiresort.com. Start planning your trip with Tourism Fiji, at fiji.travel