There are a lot of mysterious-sounding terms when it comes to pearls, and “overtone” is definitely one of them. So we created this short article to clear up any misunderstandings about pearl overtones, and which one would look the best on you.
Use the links below to skip to different sections of this article, and to see how the most popular white pearl overtones look against different skin tones.
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The three most common overtones you’ll encounter are for white pearls: Rose, Silver and Cream.These three overtones will be the same for white Japanese Akoya, white Freshwater and White South Sea pearls, although their degrees of intensity will vary from pearl to pearl.
The vast majority of Akoya pearls undergo a process called "Bleaching and Pinking" directly after harvest; this removes strong greenish colors that this pearl type naturally features, and embues the pearls with a pastel sparkle that complements any complexion. Mikimoto pearls is known for their traditional Rose overtones, and Tiffany's specializes in Akoya pearls with bright Silver hues.
For White South Sea pearls, the most common overtone you’ll find is a bright Silver, and Rose is the most rare (and valuable!). Cream can be gorgeously complex, with hints of violet and bright flashes of magenta shimmering over the surface, so don’t count Cream out! Generally overtones for White South Sea pearls are a bit softer and less intense than that of the Japanese Akoya.
With Freshwater pearls, you’ll find a lot of Creamy hues and Rose overtones in each harvest, and Silver is the least prevalent.
SILVERis the most popular white pearl overtone. Closest to a true, bright white color, the Silver overtone comes the closest to what most people believe a pearl ”should” look like.
ROSEis the most Traditional White Pearl Overtone. Rose (or rosé as it is also called) features a faint to deep pink blush of color over the white body color of the pearl.
CREAM / IVORYis the Third Most Popular Overtone. And my personal favorite. Cream is best described as a hint of French Vanilla over the white body color of the pearl.
Cultured Tahitian pearls are the naturally black pearls grown in the tropical lagoons and atolls of French Polynesia. Their primary body colors aren’t truly black, but range in color from the palest Silver and Dove Grey to Very Dark Charcoal Grey.
Their secondary overtones are a literal rainbow of colors, but the most famous and popular are Peacock, Silver/Steel and Blue-Green. Other “exotic” and famous overtones are colors like Aubergine (eggplant purple), Cherry, Sky Blue, Pistachio, Chocolate and more.
PEACOCK is a varied mix of Green, Gold and Rose hues, shimmering over either a light or dark grey body color.
SILVER / STEEL Tahitian overtones can best be described as a Silvery-grey to pale white sheen shimmering over a light to dark Charcoal Grey body color. They can also contain hints of Rose or Aquamarine/Green that add a little splash of color to keep it interesting.
BLUE-GREEN Tahitian overtones are the second most-popular and prevalent overtone for Tahitian pearls. Usually mid to strongly saturated, the blue-green overtone is a bright splash of color over a medium to dark Charcoal grey body color.
Golden South Sea pearls can be a little bit tricky for some of us. These naturally-colored pearls feature subtle overtones of Rose, Neutral Gold, Silver, Green/Bronze and Champagne*. These secondary colors shimmer over primary body colors of gold that range from paler 10K gold to the deepest (and orange-y) 24K tones. Deeper and more intense the golden hues are more valuable than paler colors.
NEUTRAL GOLDEN (also known as Yellow) pearl overtones are the most prevalentout of any harvest. They are a secondary, transparent tinge of gold over the primary body color of the pearl (Gold), and so appear that the pearls have no overtone at all.
ROSE overtones on Golden South Sea pearls are a faint blush of pink color over the main Golden body color of the pearls.
GREEN / BRONZEovertones on Golden South Sea pearls are the trickiest of all to wear. They appear as a distinct greenish tinge over the golden body color of the pearl.
*CHAMPAGNEcolored Golden South Sea pearls are not really an overtone, they are more of a rare and distinct body color. The Champagne hue is a pale pinkish-peach coloring very reminiscent of a fine champagne.
The pictures below show the three most popular white pearl overtones of Rose, Silver and Cream on various skin tones.