Pearl Color Guide: Everything You Need To Know And More

The pearl color is something that is taken into account every single time we make a purchase. We carefully consider the existing colors of pearls because they can be natural or induced. In addition, they can complement the skin tone. They also reflect our taste. The beauty of pearls can be found in their nacre, surface, origin, and color. So, let’s enter into the fascinating world of pearls and discover the multiple shades and colors they adopt.

It is commonly known that pearls come in different shapes, sizes and colors. We often ask ourselves how pearl colors are formed and why are there different colors of pearls. Therefore, this post will cover everything you need to know about what is pearl color, how many pearl colors are there on the market, how pearl colors are achieved and whether there is a meaning behind their gorgeous colors.

What is the color of a pearl

First of all, the pearl color is a combination of body color and overtone color which is overlying the pearl body color. Pink overtones are desirable on white pearls and they are the most valuable. Nuances of green or yellow have a tendency to reduce the overall price of white pearls.

The most common pearl colors are obviously white and cream.  White pearls are the embodiment of elegance and femininity. Black and various black shades are also quite familiar, but the palette of pearl colors extends to every hue. What’s essential to mention is that additional colors, named overtones, have the ability to modify the main color or body. The overtone of a pearl is the color a pearl reflects that lies just above the pearl body color itself. These overtones are in most cases pink, green, purple, or blue.

According to the Gemological Institute of America, some pearls also show the iridescent phenomenon known as orient. The orient effect represents the iridescent colors that seem to change and swirl as the pearl moves or if the light changes. The effect is obtained when the light reflects through the multiple layers of nacre. The pearl color rarity is influenced by the type of pearl. Akoya pearls, South Sea pearls and Tahitian pearls and the most expensive ones. Pearl colors value is higher when the pearl did not suffer any treatment.

Why are there different colors of pearls?

What colors can pearls be?  If you have already explored our online shop, you’ve noticed the wide variety of pearl colors. Well, their color depends on the way they are formed. Natural pearls are extremely rare and they are almost 100% calcium carbonate and conchiolin. Typically, the build-up of a natural pearl represents a brown central zone formed by columnar calcium carbonate (usually calcite, sometimes columnar aragonite) and a yellowish to white outer zone consisting of nacre (tabular aragonite).

white and lavender pearls with pink roses

On the other hand, cultured or farmed pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels are created while using human intervention and natural processes. Cultured pearls can own their own natural color and in this case the pearl color can be white, black, gold, pink, lavender, blue. How pearls come in different colors is dictated by the color of the mollusk’s lip, the outer part of the shell. For example, Tahitian pearls obtain their light to dark charcoal grey shades from the black-lipped saltwater Tahitian pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera.

In the rest of the cases, in order to meet the market needs, the industry developed certain treatments and dyes to induce them various colors. Blue pearls are probably the rarest, but they have also become popular, ranging in shades of dark blue to light aquamarine. A well-treated pearl will display even coloring and a metallic shine.

Existing pearl colors

1.  White Pearls

Types of white pearls: freshwater pearls, Akoya pearls, South Sea pearls.

Overtones: in the white color family, overtones range from pink to a creamy, ivory, or silver.

The color of the Akoya pearls is determined by the nacre. White Akoya pearls, as a color category, encompass light creamy pearls as well as those with an overtone.

white Japanese Akoya pearl necklace

White Japanese Akoya Pearls

Pearl color and overtone can vary slightly under different lighting sources and ambient colors, as a result of the pearl’s makeup. At PearlsOnly you can find Chinese Akoya pearls and Japanese Akoya pearls. Japanese Akoya pearls take longer to grow, but the quality of their surface is superior to that of Chinese Akoya pearls.

White South Sea pearls are the ideal choice for statement pieces because they are the largest pearls available. They are also the rarest cultured pearls available on the market because their shape is flawlessly round, which makes them luxury items. The white South Sea Pearls are more prominent in Australian harvests. Their natural colors range from brilliant white to a silvery sheen.

white pearl color - pearl pendant

White South Sea Pearls

When it comes to white freshwater pearls, their pearl color is determined by the mussel itself and environmental factors that affect the nacre as it is layered. As you may have expected, white is the most popular color for freshwater pearls. The overtone can vary slightly under different lighting sources and ambient colors.

white freshwater pearl earrings

White Freshwater Pearls

2. Black Pearls

Types of black pearls: Tahitian pearls, Akoya pearls, freshwater pearls.

Overtones: gray, green, silver, peacock, purple.

The most common natural color is the famous black Tahitian pearl color. Back Tahitian pearls have been the favorite of royalty through the ages. They are cultured in the Black-lipped oyster (Pinctada margaritifera cumingi).

First of all, it should be said that Tahitian pearls cannot be color treated, while the other types of pearls do suffer treatments in order to achieve the black color. Tahitian pearls are more easily noticeable as a result of their darker colors and metallic shine. Some of the pearls also display a highly desired prismatic or rainbow effect called orient. Next, the overtone is the subtle color the pearl reflects. The majority of Tahitian cultured pearls will fall into the range of gray – from dark grays that are almost black to lighter ones that are almost silver. As a result, we have this wide variety of shades.

Tahitian pearl colors: gray, pistachio, silver, black, aubergine, peacock.

tahitian black pearl colors

Tahitian Black Pearls – color grading

Pistachio describes pearls with lighter yellowish – green shine. A lighter gray or silver Tahitian pearl is less dark than the traditional black. Given the lighter color aspect, these pearls have a brighter shine. Deep and dark lustrous black is the most recognizable of the Tahitian pearls. The aubergine shade resembles to the purple color of the eggplant, while the peacock is one of the most valued colors. It is dark green to blue gray with a shine reminiscent of a peacock’s tail feathers.

Due to the popularity of Tahitian pearls, the market needs encouraged the raise of the black freshwater pearls. They own a similar deep metallic shine, but it is achieved during a certain process.
Black freshwater pearl colors are usually created by irradiation treatment that permanently changes the nacre of the pearls. The metallic iridescence resulting from these treatments is very appreciated. Plus, you can obtain the look of black Tahitian pearls at a fraction of the price.

Black Freshwater pearl colors: black, green-peacock, deep sapphire blue, dark onyx black.

Black Freshwater Pearls

Another great option would be the black Akoya pearls. Just as freshwater pearls, in order to obtain the black color, Akoya pearls are dyed. Their darker colors are brought on by irradiation or a silver salt treatment. The treatment permanently changes the nacre of the pearls. The most popular are black with green-peacock, deep sapphire blue and dark onyx black. Most dyed black pearls are under 8mm to 9mm where as black Tahitian pearls are not as readily available in that size.

black Japanese Akoya pearl necklace

Black Japanese Akoya Pearls

If you’re eager to learn more about the fascinating world of black pearls, here is a quick and useful guide.

3. Pink Pearls

Types of pink pearls: Freshwater pearls.

Light pastel freshwater pearls in pink is relatively new to the fine jewelry market. The light pink is a naturally occurring color in freshwater pearls. However, after harvest, the pearl may undergo post-harvest treatments as well to enhance or alter color. We love pink pearls because they have this ability of accentuating a woman’s most feminine features.

pink pearl color - pearl earrings

Pink Freshwater Pearls

pink freshwater pearl earrings

Pink Freshwater Pearls

4. Lavender Pearls

Types of lavender pearls: Freshwater pearls.

Just as pink pearls, lavender freshwater pearls have a natural color, but it can be enhanced after processing. They are perfect for a unique look. Wear them in double strands for a remarkable appearance.  Delicate and graceful, this pearl color will enhance your natural beauty.

lavender freshwater pearl necklace

Lavender Freshwater Pearls

5. Golden Pearls

Types of golden pearls: South Sea Pearls.

Both white and golden are natural colors of South Sea cultured pearls, but the golden pearls are more prized. The regal, warm tone of this golden pearl color sets apart this category of pearl jewels. Golden South Sea pearls are produced by Pinctada Maxima, the gold-lipped oyster and their growth time spans from 20 to 24 months. As a result, the natural pearl color in gold is extremely rare. This is why they represent refined luxury items. Brought all the way from exotic Indonesia and Australia, golden South Sea pearls tend to appear more in Indonesian harvests.

6. Multicolor Pearls

Types of pearls: Freshwater pearls, Tahitian pearls.

Multicolor pearls can be found in two variants on our website: multicolor freshwater pearls and multicolor Tahitian pearls.

The Ella Edison freshwater pearl necklace is remarkable and exquisite. The changing color tone of the pastel based pearls gives this necklace a special note. With the purples, pinks, creams, lavenders and more, this multicolored 20” strand takes fashion to new and dazzling heights. As you can imagine, due to the glistening pearls, the multicolored freshwater pearls will totally brighten up an entire outfit.

multicolor pearl necklace

Multicolor Pearl Necklace

On the other hand, the Tahitian Multicolored Pearl necklaces brings together cold and beautiful nuances of blue, green, purple and black. Bold and daring women will wear this multicolor pearl necklace with pleasure. The large Premium Tahitian Multi-Colored Pearl is hand selected and colored matched to ensure a perfect combination.

black tahitian pearl necklace

Multicolor Tahitian Pearls

Pearl color meaning

This section will treat pearl color meanings from a symbolic and spiritual point of view. For centuries, pearls have been considered a symbol of beauty and purity. Moreover, they are even thought to symbolize wisdom obtained through valuable experience.

White pearls usually represent everything that has a tight connection with perfection: purity, beauty, innocence, new beginnings. Consequently, white pearls are the number one choice when it comes to bridal jewelry. Classic and refined, they stand the test of time.

Black pearls are an ideal source for those who prefer to add a bit of edge to their style. They reflect mystery, strength, prosperity and independence. This pearl color is not the typical choice for women who are introvert and shy. To read more about what does a black pearl symbolizes, you have our guide about black pearls.

Golden pearls represent luxury, riches, wealth. The wearer appreciates expensive and hard to obtain things.

Pink pearls and good fortune go hand in hand. This pearl color represents fame, faith, success and … romance! That’s right, ladies. The delicate and soft pink pearls are perfect for women who wear classic cuts, but sophisticated accessories.

Luxurious-looking, chocolate or brown pearls signify masculinity, protection, dependability and harmony. Those who helped you in life would really appreciate chocolate pearls since they represent a kind of appreciation.

lavender pearl color pearls

Lavender pearls symbolize true nobility, passion and wisdom. They are  ideal for people who value education, have strong values and principles and are constantly in a learning process. Lavender pearls will always add a note of sophistication to any attire.

It is believed that the person who wears blue pearls will find love. Maybe this is the reason for being so rare? 😊 For others, blue pearls symbolize calm, trust, truth and courage.

Lastly, green pearls usually represent uniqueness, growth, nature, hope, freshness, rejuvenation. The wearer is constantly looking to learn new ways that stimulate personal growth.

To conclude this short guide, there are multiple pearl colors, all exquisite and beautiful, waiting for their wearer to appreciate them. There are three key components that influence the pearl color: the body color, the overtone, and the orient effect. As we previously mentioned, the pearl color that you think it reflects your natural beauty is the perfect color for you. In the end, there is no formal criteria when choosing your pearl jewelry other than your personal taste.

It’s true that some experts claim that the best manner in choosing the perfect pearl is your skin tone. As a result, women that have fair to light skin tone can easily wear pearls with a rosy overtone, while women with a darker skin tone will look best in black or cream-colored pearls. But you can always coordinate your pearls with your outfit. In this way you are not conditioned to pick a certain color. Select your favorite and create your own timeless memory!

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