One of the common questions I get regarding my Natural Color Blue Akoya Pearl Collections is how exactly the pearls attain these colors?
Is it a treatment?
A compound in the water?
Some kind of weird nutrient the oyster filters in during feeding??
Marine biologists and pearl specialists puzzled over this issue for quite a few years, but I’m happy to report that the mystery has been SOLVED.
According to the experts at the Cultured Pearl Association of America, Blue Akoya pearls are blue due to a grafting error!
The nucleation process is a delicate affair – the pinctada martensii pearl oyster is the smallest pearl-bearing oyster currently used to produce pearls today, and is the host for the saltwater Akoya pearl.
Some Light Blue Baroque Akoya Pearls in their host oyster (minus the guts)
Inserting the bead nucleus into the oyster involves delicately slicing open the oyster’s gonad. The perfectly round nuclei is carefully placed inside the incision, and a teeny, tiny, 1.0mm square piece of donor mantle tissue is positioned on top of the bead.
Typically the donor mantle tissue square is thought to influence the pearl’s resulting coloration.
In the case of the Blue Akoya pearl, the donor mantle tissue is practically irrelevant.
Because the bead nucleus, inserted improperly, has already gotten organic matter on it that has a FAR bigger impact than epthelium cells tinging the aragonite nacre platelets.
I kid, I kid!
We actually need more Blue Pearls, please!!!
Anyways. When the grafter inserts the nucleus incorrectly, it can cause delays in the healing of the surgical incision site. This creates an inflammatory response within the oyster, and irregular secretions of the nacre around the nucleus.
The organic matter is usually black or brownish colored, but when viewed through the thousands of layers of semi-transparent crystalline nacre layers, it appears BLUE.
Pale Silvery-Blue-Grey Round Blue Akoya pearl pair for earrings. Not in stock at the moment (I wish!).
Blue Akoya pearls (and the more common Pale Silvery-Blue-Grey hues seen above) have been with us for as long as cultured Akoya pearls have been around – so since the 1920’s or thereabouts.
I myself own a strand of vintage Blues that my grandmother left me when she passed away about 6 years ago.
This isn't my vintage strand, just some eye-candy. ;)
Traditionally Blue Akoya pearls were discarded during harvests as they were not considered to be “ideal” for use in fine jewelry (the pinnacle and goal of the cultured Akoya is a fine white color).
That said, today that’s certainly not the case! As pearl lovers around the world become more aware of the beauty and unique beauty of naturally-colored cultured pearls like Blue, Gold, Pistachio and Silver among a rainbow of other hues in other pearl types. If you're interested in learning more about these pearls I have some really lovely pictures located on my Ultimate Akoya Pearl Buyer's Guide article.
Dark, super saturated True-Blue Akoya Pearls are visually stunning, and really hard to get!
True-Blue Akoya pearls are still rare as farmers and grafters aren’t actually trying to make them on purpose. The goal is always a fine White Akoya pearl at harvest. So maintaining a “regular” rotating inventory (ESPECIALLY in the Rounds – don’t even get me started on that topic!!) is still a bit of hit or miss. That said, their acceptance and growing popularity means that these colorful pearls aren’t ending up in the recycle pile anymore (thank goodness!).
So there ya go – now you know how Blue Akoya pearls get their colors.
What do you think? Does the process behind the coloring turn you off of Blue Akoya pearls? Leave me a comment and let me know.
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