August 27, 2019 6 Comments

How Blue Akoya Pearls Get Their Color

Hi Everyone!

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.


Blue Akoya pearls in pinctada shell

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.

Light Silvery Blue Akoya Pearl Matched Pair

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.


Blue Akoya Pearl Necklace on Bust

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 Blue Baroque Akoya Pearl Necklaces

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.


Talk Soon!

- Ashley

Click to: Shop Blue Akoya Pearl Necklaces

Click to: Blue Akoya Pear Bracelets

6 Responses

Norm  Lange
Norm Lange

January 14, 2023

I’ve had a blueish Akoya I got from my dealer in Japan, since 2014 Feb. I thought was Akoya but it is So Sea ( I checked the invoice) blueish and measures 19 × 22.9.

Barbara Adams
Barbara Adams

October 22, 2021

Hi Ashley, First, thank you for your thoughtful and informational articles! My mother recently showed me her strand of what she called “black pearls” and they are almost surely Akoya Blue, high end, perfectly matched! So pretty. She was so interested in your article. I guess most jewelry stores don’t have this type of information or don’t take the time to learn about the different things they sell, hence the mis-information. I recently found a lovely 3-strand set of what was advertised as Tahitian gray pearls, but they look so much like Akoya blue…I think those too may have been mis-advertised. I snatched them up, because the price was good even if they are freshwater gray, but if they are Akoya blue, they were an even better deal. Vintage pearls from some grandma’s jewelry box. I love re-stringing them and giving them new life.


September 06, 2019

Hi Marina!

That strand is a Baroque strand actually – I’ll dig it out and get some pics to post in addendum to this blog post so everyone can see it soon. ;)

Hi Debbi -

Good to hear from you! We’re checking out the HK Show this month, and Blues are (OF COURSE) on the list! Check in with me in the start of October, and I can let you know what we found – fingers crossed!



September 06, 2019

Very interesting bit of information on where the blue colouration of Akoya pearls come from..


September 06, 2019

Hi Ashley,
thank you for this article!
I was wondering is your blue Akoya necklace, inherited from you late Grandmother round or baroque?

Debbi Badolato
Debbi Badolato

September 06, 2019

Hello Ashley hope you are well💗Did you post this article about the blue Akoya dreams just to tease me?? Any hope these beauties will be coming soon?

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