Exotic Cook Islands black pearls showcased in Auckland

Deliciously exotic black pearls from the Cook Islands could offer trade buyers something different at Auckland’s Spring and Homewares Gift Fair from 27-29 August.Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) New Zealand have invited four Pacific companies to exhibit at the Spring and Homewares Gift Fair including Kora Pearls (Cook Islands), skincare products from Essence of Fiji, The Summit Vanuatu and Natural Fiji.

Kora Pearls are from the Cook Islands, owned by Kora and Nancy Kora. The black pearls are cultured in the tiny far away island of Manihiki, in the Northern Group of the Cook Islands with a population of just about 230 people.

Black pearls are considered more than its off-white cousins.  More mysterious. More expensive.  Rare.  Black pearls form in a very specific type of oyster, the Pinctada margaritifera, a black lipped mother of pearl shell, in ideal conditions offered in places such as the Northern Group of the Cook Islands or Tahiti.

Pearls are graded according to their shape, lustre, size, colour and deep nacre quality which is the crystalline substance around the pearl that creates the iridescent visual effect. The Cook Islands black pearls come in a range and variety of shapes from “freeform and unique baroque pearls through to perfectly spherical rounds,” according to the Cook Islands Pearl Authority.

Mr and Mrs Kora were one of the original seven farmers who had the first oysters seeded back in the mid-1980s.

Since 2009, the pair took ownership of the pearl farm and increased production from 2000 to 20,000 seeded oysters annually.

Their eldest son Thomas Kora and Japanese technician Kiyoshi Mukai are responsible for all seedings of their oysters. As harvests increased, they moved on to adding value to their pearls and now sell pearl jewellery at the Rarotonga market (Punanganui) and have a retail shop in town.

They employ five workers in Manihiki with three selling in Rarotonga.

At the Home and Gift fair they will showcase a ‘fresh selection’ of their latest harvest of loose pearls, showing off some nice lustre and vibrant colours. The pearl jewellery consists of pearl pendants set on silver and gold fittings, earrings, rings, strands and locally made handcraft pieces.

Mrs Kora said, “As the nacre of our Cook Islands pearls are thicker than others, we hope to attract some creative jewellers and designers. They are keen to promote the whole of the Cook Islands pearl industry and inform people “about the rare quality of a Cook Islands pearl and how we are farming our pearls in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way,” Mrs Kora said.

Currently they are not exporting to any countries other than some jewellery sold through their website or Facebook page. They hope to meet with buyers who want to purchase parcels of pearls, and customers wanting pearl pieces for Christmas presents.

Black pearls are the Cook Islands leading export. The black pearl industry is overseen by the Cook Islands Pearl Authority (CIPA).  The organisation was formed in 1994 to provide direction and regulation of the pearl industry in the Cook Islands.

PTI NZ Trade Development Manager Joe Fuavao said, “PTI acknowledges the support of Business Trade and Investment Board (BTIB) Cook Islands in featuring Kora Pearls at the show. Interestingly, the PTI Internship Programme is currently hosting a team member of the BTIB in our Auckland offices. The gift fair will offer a great opportunity for the intern to develop a better understanding of what we do and how we help Pacific companies in the New Zealand market.”

For more information please email PTI NZ Trade Development Manager Joe Fuavao on joe.f@pacifictradeinvest.co.nz

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