The Cook Islands pearl industry dates back to 18th century when black lipped Mother of Pearl Shell was collected from Manihiki and Penrhyn by European traders for use in buttons and inlaid furniture.
Today though, it's the pearl itself which is traded and less than 15 years ago, Manihiki was the second largest producer in the world.
A devastating cyclone in 1997, fierce competition from countries such as Tahiti and China and poor government support and marketing all but destroyed the industry. But today, huge efforts are being made to revive it. And many experts still say the black pearls farmed in the crystal clear lagoon waters of the Cook Islands are the finest in the world.