Native species of pearl oysters are cultivated deep in the ocean and placed in baskets or nets to protect them from sea predators. In Tahiti, pearl harvesting takes place in May and November. The farmer dives in the water where the pearl grows, makes an incision in the oyster and extracts the pearl. If the pearl is the correct round form and of good quality, it is removed and a new nucleus will be implanted. After two harvests oysters are returned to the wild. Sometimes such oysters live up 30 years.
Typically, Tahitian pearls from a first harvest are better and more beautiful than the next one. After harvesting, all the pearls undergo a process of washing in fresh water, drying, and buffing. You can see pearl production by yourself during a tour of a farm. A few farms even allow tourists to try pearl harvesting.