One of Papeete’s few museums, the Musée de la Perle (or Black Pearl Museum) celebrates all aspects of pearl culture. In the days before large-scale cultivation, these ocean jewels were charged with mystical significance, associated with religious rites and coveted as status symbols. The museum, established by local entrepreneur Robert Wan, looks at the pearl in art, history and literature, and shows how they get from the sea to the display case.
The real star here is the black pearl. While a little more abundant than in the days when Mary, Queen of Scots adorned herself with a priceless necklace of the dark sea bounty, this Tahitian specialty is still a sought-after rarity.
The Musée de la Perle is a stone’s throw from Papeete’s waterfront, close to the Marché de Papeete and the cathedral. There are numerous stores in the area where you can buy your own black pearls.