Pearl colors: Categories, meanings, and images

The value of pearls should be evaluated not only by their color but also by their origin, size, smoothness, imperfections, and all other aspects that should be taken into consideration. In this article, we will talk about pearl colors, categories, values, meanings, and how to choose.

The pearl is the only gemstone that is nurtured by life. It is the crystallization of the life of mussels and shells, a gemstone that connects with the human heart and soul. Its magic is enough to overshadow all the gems in the world. Pearl jewelry makes every woman who wears it look elegant and luxurious.

What color are pearls?

Pearl colors can be divided into five major categories: white, black, gold, pink, and purple.

In most people’s minds, white has always been the main theme of pearls. On some occasions, white pearls may seem a bit monochromatic.

In fact, people of different countries and nationalities prefer different colors. Everyone has her or his own favorite color too. Color is not the most important criterion for evaluating pearls.

According to the pearl category, freshwater pearls are commonly available in white, gold or yellow, purple, pink, and cream; saltwater pearls are less colorful and are generally divided into white, silver, yellow, blue, and black, and so on.

1. South Sea pearls: golden pearls and white pearls

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The main colors of South Sea pearls are white and gold, with the rich gold color usually being the most prized.

These pearls are produced in the white lip or gold lip shells. These two types of mother-of-pearl are mainly found in the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean in places like Burma, New Guinea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, and China, and are the largest of the pearl shells, growing to 20-30 cm. South Sea pearls are usually 8-20 mm in size.

Golden pearls account for only 4% to 8% of the total production of South Sea pearls, so they are very rare and are known as one of the most precious pearls. Gold pearls can be best matched with gray and black clothing to show a bit of understatement and luxury in a restrained way.

South Sea pearl colors can be subdivided into white, silver, pink, blue, cream, and gold.

2. Tahitian pearls: black pearls and peacock green pearls

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Black pearls originate mostly from Tahiti and are also known as Tahitian black pearls, famous for their mysterious black color. The stately and mysterious aura that black pearls exude can be both elegant and handsome and unisex.

Tahitian black pearls are known as the queen of pearls, which shows that black pearls are high in both quality and price.

Since the value of black pearls is very high, there are many fake or dyed black pearls on the market nowadays. Therefore, consumers should pay attention to distinguish them when making a purchase.

Tahitian pearls are produced from black lip shells that secrete gray and black nacre. The pearls produced are generally round or teardrop-shaped and extremely large.

Black lip mussels live in a wide range of subtropical to temperate seas, such as New Zealand and French Polynesia, and the most representative and productive is Tahitian.

Tahitian pearls have a very rich variation in color, with gray to black undertones, accompanied by diverse haloes. The pearls range in size from 8 to 20 mm.

Tahitian pearl colors are roughly divided into: black, green, gray, yellow, and brown, of which peacock green is the most popular and the most expensive.

3. Freshwater pearls: white pearls

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Grown by the delphinium mussel. Compared to saltwater pearls, freshwater pearls do not have a nucleus, so they should not be too round and are usually 3-13mm in size.

Freshwater pearls are also called Chinese pearls as they are now almost exclusively produced in China.

The main colors of freshwater pearls are white, orange, pink, and purple. Among them, white is the most popular and the price is slightly higher than other colors.

Freshwater pearls are more common in the market than other varieties and are more affordable.

4. Akoya pearls: white pearls

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Akoya pearls are predominantly white, with translucent pink or blue. In contrast, freshwater pearls are mainly white, pink, and purple. Akoya pearls are generally more delicate, have better luster and roundness, and fewer imperfections than freshwater pearls; therefore, they are generally worth more than the latter.

Akoya pearls are bred from the mahsei shell. In Japan, people refer to good quality AKOYA pearls as hanadama pearls. Akoya pearls are mostly between 2-10mm in size, and 10mm and above are very rare.

Akoya pearl colors: white, silver, champagne. High-quality gray Akoya pearls are a rare commodity and are comparable to high-quality white Akoya pearls.

5. Mabe pearls: white pearls

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Mabe pearls refer to a type of cultured pearl with a special semi-circular structure. White is the natural color of Mabe pearls, which are produced in small quantities and are highly prized. The halo color is also fantastic and gives designers a lot of room to imagine and create.

The size of Mabe pearls is mostly above 10mm. They can be cultured in various shapes such as heart, teardrop, oval, olive, and so on.

Mabe pearl colors: white, silver, blue.

Two rare colors of pearls: pink pearls and orange pearls

In addition to the above five common categories, there are also the pink Conch pearls and the orange Melo pearls, both of which are currently unculturable, precious and rare, and far more expensive than the above five common pearls.

6. Conch pearls: pink pearls and red pearls

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The most typical colors of conch pearls are pink and red, with a flame-like luster on the surface, known as the “flame pattern” of pearls.

In fact, Conch Pearls pearls have a wide band of colors, ranging from light rose to bright pink, and sometimes from grayish-green to ochre brown. White conch pearls have also been found. A typical conch pearl weighs approximately 2 to 6 carats, with larger ones weighing up to 20 carats.

In addition to its very special color, this pearl is also characterized by the fact that it does not grow inside the mussel, but is slowly formed inside the conch. These pearl-producing conchs generally live on the beaches of Florida in the United States, the Yudantan Peninsula in Mexico, the Bahamas, and the Arnty Peninsula in the Caribbean.

Their existence should be attributed entirely to nature, and not to any artificial cultivation.

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This is what makes Conch pearls such a rare and expensive natural gemstone. Any attempt to artificially cultivate Conch pearls, at least to date, has invariably ended in failure. Only in about 50,000 conchs can one obtain a usable pearl after fleshing.

Therefore, only a total of 2,000 to 3,000 conch pearls can be found each year, and only 20-30% of these are used for jewelry, which is the main reason why natural Conch pearls are so rare throughout the world.

7. Melo pearls: orange pearls and yellow pearls

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Melo pearls come from the body of a sea snail and cannot be cultured artificially either. Melo pearls are mostly orange, yellow, brown, or white in color, have a ceramic crystal appearance and a flame pattern inside, and come in a variety of shapes, with the round ones usually having a higher value.

Melo pearls are mainly produced in the Southeast Asian waters of Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. The chances of finding a rare and precious Melo pearl from a sea snail are one in a thousand, and the chances of being able to mine it in its entirety for a large size are even lower.

Melo pearls are very rare in the market. They are most prized for the orange color, similar to that of a ripe papaya. As a rare treasure, Melo pearls have been pursued by collectors from both East and West for many years, and are worth a great deal of money.

At present, there are only about 200 Melo pearls in existence worldwide, mainly from the royal treasures of the Nguyen Dynasty, the last dynasty of Vietnam.

8. Other colored pearls

For some occasions, matching colorful pearls with light-colored clothing can make you extra playful and bright. For example, purple has always been a symbol of sensuality, mystery, and elegance, and the rare and noble purple pearls are loved by many, not only to showcase their glamorous skin but also to highlight the feminine side of women.

Each pearl has its own soul and its own master, it is there waiting for you to find.

If we roughly talk about it, pearl colors are basically white, pink, purple, gold, and black. But if you dig deeper, you can find a much wider range of colors.

Pearl colors and values: variety, shape, luster, size

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Pearl colors are only one of the factors that determine the value of a pearl. One color is not more expensive or cheaper than another one, but the demand and scarcity of a certain color affect the price for sure.

For example, pink pearls are always in high demand, so they are often more expensive than cream or gold pearls. And South Sea black pearls can be even more expensive. They sometimes cost more than pink Agouti pearls.

Back to the topic, the main factors that affect the price of a pearl are the variety, shape, luster, size, and layers of the pearl.

Therefore, the value of different varieties of pearls is different. Pearl values from highest to lowest: South Sea pearls> Tahitian pearls> Akoya pearls> freshwater pearls.

When selecting pearls of the same variety, we should know that large, round, less flawed, and more lustrous pearls have a higher price and value.

Therefore, when buying pearls, we should not only look at pearl colors, but also the variety, shape, luster, finish, size, and layers of pearls so that we can pick the best ones.

Pearl color meanings

A complete guide to pearls colors

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Pearls known as the “Queen of Jewels” are listed as a birthstone for June and a memorial gemstone for the thirteenth and thirtieth anniversary of marriage. Pearl jewelry has been loved by people since ancient times and brings good wishes to people who are born in this month.

Generally speaking, pearls symbolize health, peace, wealth, and longevity. However, different pearl colors represent different meanings.

Black pearls symbolize wisdom; white pearls symbolize a lifetime of happiness for two; pink pearls symbolize the most romantic love; purple pearls symbolize health; golden pearls symbolize the acquisition of wealth.

What causes different pearl colors?

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In fact, there are many reasons for the varying colors of pearls: including the type of shell, the thickness and number of layers of the pearl oysters, and the potential trace elements in the aquatic environment.

First of all, the various colors of pearls are attributed to the variety of shells that nurtures them. Just as, gold-lip shells produce gold pearls, black butterfly shells do not produce white pearls and it is extremely rare for other shells to produce black pearls.

Secondly, the thicker the pearl oysters, the richer the pearl colors. Thin pearl oysters tend to produce cream-colored pearls with fewer hues.

Thirdly, the trace elements in the pearl determine its color. When a pearl contains copper ions, the pearl has a golden color. When the pearl contains silver ions then the pearl’s color is creamy or yellow. When the pearl contains sodium ions, the color of the pearl is beige. When the pearl contains zinc ions, the color of the pearl is pink.

In addition, the color of pearls can be differentiated into body color and halo color. The former is the color of the pearl mass itself and the latter is caused by optical effects, which are related to the transparency and the thickness of the pearl layer.

Enhancements of pearl colors: dyeing

There are many colors of pearls: white, gold, silver, pink, red, black, blue, gray, etc., of which white with a slight rose color is the best, with blue-black with a metallic luster is particularly good, but if you see pure black, gray pearls, you should be alerted to the possibility of dyed pearls.

Jewelers often enhance the color of pearls through dyeing. Most of the dyed pearls on the market today are done using a method: infiltration. It refers to the penetration of the dye into the surface of the pearl using the principle of osmosis.

Freshwater pearls are soft and can be dyed in a matter of hours or days to achieve the desired effect. Seawater pearls are harder and take about 2 months and cost much more.

South Sea pearls are denser and must be assisted by strong light to accelerate the penetration and even distribution of the dyes. This is where we hear terms such as “laser dyeing”, “radiation dyeing”, “baking”, etc.

The way to distinguish dyed and genuine pearls is that natural black pearls are not pure black, but black with a dark blue or bronze tone; dyed pearls are dark gray or black, monotonous in color and poor in luster, and if you scrub the pearls with a cloth dipped in 5% dilute nitric acid, the pearls will leave a black stain on the cloth.

Which pearl color should I choose?

The preference for pearl colors and shades varies from place to place. Pink and white pearls with rose refractive shades are popular in the United States and Japan. In France, people love cream-colored pearls. In South America and Spain, people desire yellow and gold pearls. Culture has a lot to do with this preference.

The diversity of pearl colors leads many to ponder the question of what color is the best and what color suits them the most. We recommend choosing according to your own identity, preferences, and occasions.

If you are looking for a high-end variety that shows your status, consider choosing South Sea pearls with a white or gold color, or Tahitian black pearls with an attractive deep sea color.

Since these pearls are usually 9mm or larger, they are usually best designed as pendants, earrings, or rings.

Of course, if you choose a strand of South Sea or Tahitian pearls as a necklace, then this piece of expensive jewelry can definitely showcase your very noble status.

For everyday wear or destination wedding outfits, or as a gift, white pearl necklaces or earrings make the most classic and versatile choice.

And if you have a personal preference for purple or pink, then choosing a purple or pink freshwater pearl necklace is a good and unique choice. Purple symbolizes nobleness and mystery, pink symbolizes romance.


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