Pearl Colours

Pearls are one of the few precious stones in the world that can come naturally in a variety of colours, and its colour is one of the unique characteristics of a pearl that makes them so desirable. Although the traditional and popular image of a pearl is one that is white, this doesn't mean that pearls of other colours aren't popular and beautiful in their own right.

 

The colour of a pearl is caused by many different things. One of the major causes of different colours is the colour of the host mollusc's shell; an Akoya pearl is a white colour, as is the shell of the oyster. Similarly, the black-lipped Pinctada margaritifera produces the dark Tahitian pearls. The environment that the mollusc is in also can affect the colour of the pearls produced, many freshwater pearls from America display bronze and green colours, which is believed to be caused by the copper in the water the mollusc was in. Polluted water can cause the mollusc to be unhealthy, and produce thin nacre or low-lustre pearls.

 

Pearl farmers do try to encourage the pearls to grow in different colours when they implant the mantle tissue, but there's not much that can be done at this stage and the colour of the pearl is unknown until it is harvested.

 

As we've seen before in our blog post about Famous Pearls, the Paspaley Pearl, the largest and most valuable cultured pearl, has stunning pink overtones. This is not an uncommon colour to find in cultured pearls, neither is it unusual to display gold, grey or blue overtones.

 

Pearl treatments mean that pearls today can be almost any colour, including bright colours such as green, purple or orange. However these cannot be found naturally.

 

One area that is considered when the pearls are graded is the colour of it, and it can make a huge difference to the value of a pearl. The Japanese Pearl Science Laboratory takes colour into account when grading Hanadama pearls, and the Gemological Institute of America (who originally classified diamonds) lists colour as one of the seven key criteria for pearl grading.

 

When examined, the pearl is assessed on three characteristics; the body colour is the dominant colour of the gem, the overtone is a translucent shade over the top of the body colour, which can give an unusual shine, and the orient, which is the rainbow of colours that can be seen in the pearl as it rotates.

 

The classic white pearl is still the most popular colour, but the darker Tahitian pearls are very contemporary, and the bright dyed freshwater pearls give a whole new look to a traditional item of jewellery.

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