The Cortez Pearl
is a naturally occurring black Pearl
that grows in either the pinctada mazatianica
(La Paz black-lipped oyster) or the pteria sterna
(western-winged rainbow-lipped oyster) in the Sea of Cortez – a long, narrow body of water on the west coast of Mexico that separates the Baja California peninsula from mainland Mexico.
The Pearls were first noticed hanging from the necks of Aztecs when the conquistador Hernan Cortez made his appearance. He determined to discover their source and was soon bringing back the dark Pearls to Europe’s royalty, who valued them higher than Gold
. These oysters were the only source of Black Pearls from the 1500's until others were discovered near Tahiti in the mid 1800's.
In the past twenty years, there has been a reemergence of Cortez black Pearls, now in cultured Pearl form. These Pearls are the only ones farmed in limited editions by marine biologists and are the only Pearls which measure up to Fair Trade protocol qualifications.
Their body colors can be white, silver-gray, bronze, or black, with sometimes intense overtones or rainbow iridescence
in colors of green, purple, blue, gold, and violet. There are very few true jet black Pearls.
The preponderance of the Cortez Pearls are baroque shaped, with a smaller number of semi-baroque and only a very small number of round and near-round Pearls being gathered.