About The Pearl Girls

The Pearl Girls create all of our jewelry and designs at our shop in Athens, GA. We also have a huge reknot and repair department. People all over the world ship us their pearls and beaded jewelry to reknot, repair or create into a new design. Along with our passion for pearls, we are passionate about creating jobs right here in our home base in Athens, GA. We provide many perks to our staff including childcare for our hardworking mothers! Thank you for supporting us so we can continue supporting others. And thanks for sharing in our passion!

How Do Pearls Get Their Color?

Tue, Dec 08, 2015 | Pearl Blog

Black, purple, yellow, brown, silver and more. There are a variety of pearl colors well beyond the classic white pearl. When people come to The Pearl Girls shop or visit us online many people want to know, where do all these colors come from? How do pearls get their color? Great Question! 

Dyed Pearls

Dyed pink pearls

Some pearls simply get their color from dye. There was a time when it was really hip to open oysters on video. One time, I decided to tune in and watch. The person opened an akoya oyster and exclaimed, "Look at this Cranberry Pearl! Wow!" Well, that "cranberry pearl" was not native to the akoya oyster. The pearl had been dyed and implanted in that oyster for the show. So, for the sake of this post, let's just throw out the idea of dyed pearls. It happens. If you want to learn more, read up on my blog post on dyed pearls HERE!

Today, though, I want to tell you about how pearls naturally get their color. Let's start with talking about akoya pearls.

Image of Akoya Pearls

Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls are the classic white pearl that comes from Japan. They are called akoya pearls because they come from the akoya oyster. They are known for their luster and their beauty. And most people know them as white pearls. But, they are not always white! Here are some akoyas after a pearl harvest:

akoya pearls after the harvest

Pretty cool, huh? There are white pearls, yellowish white pearls, yellow and grayish silver pearls. And here is the reason why... look at the inside of ths akoya pearl oyster:

The inside of an akoya pearl

The inside of an akoya oyster is silver and white with hints of yellow.

This inside lining of the oyster is called the mother-of-pearl. It is this same mother-of-pearl nacre that the oyster uses to grow its shell, that it uses to produce a pearl.

Therefore the only natural colors that can come out of this oyster are the same colors that are in the shell.

Akoya pearls from the harvest

This is a cute video I made on the growth cycle of akoya oysters:

 Tahitian Black Pearls

How about Tahitian black pearls? They are black pearls, right? They come from the Black Lipped Oyster which thrives in French Polynesia. Here is this oyster:

Tahitian pearl in a shell

And here is a pile of pearls after a harvest:

tahitian pearls after the harvest 

Again, there is not a sense of a uniform color here. The same grays, blacks, silver, greenish gray and sometimes even brown reflected in the shell are reflected here in the harvest. And, don't forget, you can also have a white Tahitian pearl! There is alot of silvery white in that mother-of-pearl nacre!

But, think about it! If you came into The Pearl Girls shop to buy a Tahitian pearl necklace and I showed you a strand of white pearls, you would think I was crazy! Tahitian pearls are known for being black. The same way Akoya pearls are known for being white. So, what is a pearl farmer to do?! They need to optimize their cultured pearl process so they can produce the colors they prefer.

Culturing Pearls

How does a pearl farmer optimize the color of their harvest?

Cultured pearls are pearls that have had human intervention to start the pearl making process. This means, a pearl farmer inserts an irritant into an oyster or mollusk to encourage it to start making a pearl sac and forming a pearl. This irritant may or may not include a mother of pearl bead. What is does always have is a piece of donor tissue.

mantel tissue

And the tissue comes from here, the mantel of a donor oyster. The farmer takes an oyster that most closely resembles the oyster it wants to create. Usually this "donor" has a very beautiful colored shell. So, the farmer wants a sample of the tissue that created that shell, in hopes of creating pearls that same color. The technician cuts a strip of the mantel tissue then cuts it into small pieces.

Donor tissueAnd they nucleate the recipient oyster with the tissue.

implanting the mantel tissue into the oyster

Here is more about the process in French Polynesia:

Nature's Finest

But, pearls are organic and all natural. So, as much as the staff of a pearl farm tries to optimize their harvest, they do not always get it right. Nature will take over and create in a way we humans can not always control.

However, there is one thing for sure. A silvery white, yellowish shell will never produce a cranberry colored pearl. The shell color will always dictate the color of the pearl.

I hope you enjoy the beauty and the wonderful colors of pearls.

Shop for The Pearl Girls Colored Pearls HERE!



*** but also know, dye goes a long way to imitate the natural color of pearls! Any reputable pearl seller will tell you whether the pearls have been dyed or not! ***

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