Pearl Colors – The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Pearls
- White Pearls
- Black Pearls
- Golden Pearls
- Pink Pearls
- Lavender Pearls
- Blue Pearls
- Chocolate Pearls
- Multi-Color Pearls
WHITE PEARLSWhether it’s the iconic white Akoya, or glamorous White South Sea pearls, white pearls have been the “It Pearl” for literally centuries. Women and men have worn and loved white pearls because of their subtle elegance and versatility.
White Pearl Types: White Akoya, White South Sea and White Freshwater pearls.
Common Overtones: You’ll see Rose (a hint of pink), Cream/Ivory (think a tint of French Vanilla) and Silver (closest to a true, bright white).
Sizes: White pearls can be as small as 1.0-2.0mm seed pearls, up through the very largest 20.0mm sizes.
Fun Fact: The color white is associated with purity, which is why pearls are often worn by brides.
White Akoya pearls are the most popular white pearl type of all. Cultured in Japan, China and sometimes Vietnam using the Pinctada fucata martensii saltwater oyster, Akoya pearls range in size from 2.0-3.0mm up to 9.0-9.5mm (and rarely 9.5-10.0mm).
White Freshwater pearls are the second most popular white pearl type. Cultured in China using the Hyriopsis cumingii pearl mussel, Freshwater pearls range in size from 2.0-3.0mm up to 11.0-12.0mm and larger!
White South Sea pearls are the third most popular pearl type (and the most expensive!). Cultured in Australia using the silver-lipped Pinctada maxima saltwater oyster, these luxurious pearls feature a similar range of white pearl overtones to the Japanese Akoya: Rose, Silver and Cream.
Dark and exotic, black pearls have captured the imagination of men and women around the world for centuries. A hundred times more rare than white pearls, black pearls have been imbued with all kinds of mythical properties and lore.
Black Pearl Types: The only naturally-colored cultured black pearls are black Tahitian pearls from French Polynesia and Sea of Cortez pearls from Guyamas, Mexico. Black Akoya and Black Freshwater pearls are also available, but are color-treated (usually dyed) to reach their darker hues.
Common Overtones: The most common overtones for black pearls are Peacock (Green, Gold and Rose mixture), Green, Blue-Green, Rose, Silver, Copper and Aquamarine. Intensities and hues vary (a lot!!).
Sizes: Generally Tahitian and Sea of Cortez pearls range from 8.0mm up through 16.0mm and higher.
Did You Know: Polynesian lore describes the god Ono coming down from the heavens on a rainbow to gift his beloved princess the first black pearls. The pearls were imbued with the colors of his magical rainbow.
Tahitian pearls are one of only two naturally-colored black pearls in the world. Featuring shades of pale dove grey to dark charcoal grey and secondary overtones of Peacock, Cherry, Blue-Green and more, they are by far the most popular choice for men and women looking to buy black pearls.
Sea of Cortez pearls are the only other naturally-colored "black" pearls in the world. Cultured in Guyamas, Mexico, they're also the most rare cultured pearl type anywhere. Sea of Cortez pearls also feature body colors of pale to dark greys with intense, iridescent overtones of Blue-Green, Rose, Violet, Green, Gold and more!
Black Akoya pearls are dyed. They are easily distinguished by their near jet-black body colors and Midnight Blue to Greenish Blue-Black colors.
Black Freshwater pearls are color-treated, usually dyed. Intensely iridescent, they're usually called “Peacock”, but can also be commonly seen in colors ranging from dark denim blue to violet and copper.
Opulent, luxurious and best of all, naturally colored, Golden South Sea pearls are some of the largest and rarest cultured pearls in the world. Ranging in color from pale Champagne to intense 24K golden hues, these cultured pearls hail from the tropical lagoons and atolls of the Philippine Islands and Australia.
Common Overtones: You’ll encounter Neutral (Yellow) Gold, Silver, Rose, Green/Bronze and Champagne overtones.
Sizes: South Sea pearls range from 9.0mm up through 16.0mm sizes and higher.
Golden Pearl Lore: Golden pearls are said to imbue their owner with wealth and prosperity. The Chinese often depicted their dragons (said to be harbingers of great luck) bearing golden pearls in their mouths or claws.
Golden South Sea pearls in the 14K Golden body color range are considered a "medium-tone" gold, and are among the most common body colors available today. Shimmering with Neutral Gold or Rose overtones, these Golden pearls look great on the largest array of complexions.
The 18K golden tone is considered a "medium-deep" golden color, and is the color PurePearls.com stocks the most of.
The 22K to 24K golden tone is a "deep" golden color, and considered one of the rarest and most valuable.
The Champagne color is a mix of very pale, 10K gold, Silver and Rose hues. It is a very light color, very unique and rare (and great for us blondes!).
PINK and PEACH PEARLS
Common Overtones: The most common overtones you’ll see on pink to peach pearls are Aquamarine, Green, Gold and Rose hues.
Sizes: Cultured pink to peach Freshwater pearls range in size from 4.0-12.0mm, with average sizes ranging from 6.0-9.5mm. Newer cultured pearl techniques are producing larger bead-nucleated Freshwater pearls like ‘Edison’ pearls that routinely measure 14.0-16.0mm on average!
Recommended Pairings: Yellow gold is the most popular and traditional to use with pink to peach Freshwater pearls. It “warms” up the pink and golden hues already present in the pearl’s surface, and enhances their sparkle. White gold is less often used, but is an interesting and unique pairing with pastel baby to deeper pink colors, and can boost any Aquamarine to Green overtones present on the pearls.
Candy-colored Pink and Peach pearls are Freshwater pearls cultured in China. These colors are 100% natural. They range from pale peach to apricot (orange-ish) to pale baby pinks and deeper true-pink hues. Silvery-pinks and mauves are also included in this gorgeous palette.
True shades of pink Freshwater pearls range from pastel baby pinks to deeper hot pinks and corals.
Peach Freshwater pearls range from pale peaches to deep apricot colors.
Naturally colored Lavender Freshwater pearls are cultured in the Freshwater pearl mussel, Hyriopsis cumingii. These large pearl mussels are bred and cared for in freshwater aquaculture ponds and lakes in China. Nucleated up to 25 times per each side of its shell, a Freshwater pearl harvest is a very colorful affair, yielding shades of Lavender, Pink, Peach and White pearl colors.
Common Overtones: The most common overtones you’ll notice on Lavender Freshwater pearls will be cooler shades of Aquamarine and Green. Warmer shades of Gold and Rose can also be observed.
Sizes: Common Freshwater pearls range in size from 4.0-12.0mm, with an average size of 6.0-9.5mm found in most jewelry stores today. Ultra-large pearls ranging from 13.0-16.0mm are now coming onto the pearl markets in the form of ‘Edison’ pearls which are bead-nucleated.
Recommended Pairings: White gold is the most popular and traditional choice for pairing with Lavender pearls – it cools the pearls down and enhances their lovely Blue, Aquamarine and Green overtones. Yellow gold creates a high contrast between the pearls and their clasps or mountings which is visually eye-catching, and can help enhance any Gold or Rose overtones present.
The delicate to deeper shades of Lavender are a natural color seen only in cultured Freshwater pearls from China. The colors can present as pale lilac to silvery-purple to deeper lavender and do include mauve tones as well.
The deepest shades of Lavender Freshwater pearls are no-doubt-about purple colors. They range form lilac to darker lavender tones.
The paler shades of Lavender range from a rosy mauve color to pastel lilac.
Perhaps the rarest and most unique pearl color of them all, true blue pearls are one of the wonders of the world. Naturally blue-colored pearls come in astonishing array of hues from pastel Sky Blue to dark Midnight Blue colors, with an even wider array of dazzling overtones.
Blue Pearl Types: Naturally colored blue pearls are a special rarity, available only in blue Akoya, Silver-Blue White South Sea, Tahitian or Sea of Cortez pearl types.
Common Overtones for Blue Pearls: True blue Akoya pearls display very strong overtones of Blue, Aquamarine, Rose and Violet. Blue-overtoned pearls such as the Tahitian or Sea of Cortez pearl types will feature variations in their overtone range including Green, Blue-Green, Cerulean, Teal, Violet and more.
Sizes: Due to the variety of pearl types that the blue color is available in, the size ranges vary widely. Blue Akoya pearls range from 7.5-9.5mm on average. Silver-blue White South Sea pearls range from 9.0-16.0mm and larger. Blue colored Sea of Cortez pearls have a small range from 8.0-11.0mm, and Tahitian pearls can range from 8.0-14.0mm.
Interesting Blue Pearl Fact: Blue Akoya pearls are farmed in Japan and Vietnam; their colors are thought to be the result of a metabolic disorder.
Naturally colored blue Akoya pearls feature blue body colors that range from silvery blue-grey to intense sky blue.
Tahitian pearls are not really "true" blue pearls, but black pearls that can display blue-hued overtones ranging from pale sky blue to intense blue-green or teal overtones.
Sea of Cortez pearls from Guyamas, Mexico are the rarest cultured pearls in the world. As with Tahitian pearls, they are not "true" blue pearls, but black pearls with intensely saturated overtones ranging from aquamarine and blue-green to dark midnight blue (and all shades in between).
White South Sea pearls have an outstanding Silver-Blue color that’s very distinctive. They are the largest of all blue colored pearl types, and feature the trademark "satin" luster of South Sea pearls.
Chocolate pearls became incredibly popular quite recently – designers such as Erica Courtney helped solidify their status as red carpet worthy gemstones. Chocolate Tahitian pearls can be naturally colored or dyed their trademark colors … Guess which ones we prefer.
Chocolate Pearl Types: Color-treated Chocolate Tahitians, naturally-colored Chocolate Tahitians and dyed Chocolate Freshwater pearls.
Chocolate Pearl Overtones: The most popular and common overtones you’ll find are Gold, Rose and subtle tones of Green/Bronze. These colors shimmer over “Dark Chocolate” and “Milk Chocolate” body colors.
Sizes: These can range in size from 9.0-14.0mm, but the average size is 10.0-12.0mm.
Recommended Pairings: Yellow gold is probably the prettiest pairing for clasps and mountings as it enhances the warmer shades of gold present in the pearls. White gold can be used to create an interesting visual contrast, but care should be taken to pair use pearls with Dark Chocolate body colors and Greenish overtones.
The term ‘Multi-color’ refers to a layout design rather than a pearl color, and can be composed of Freshwater, Tahitian or South Sea pearl types.
Multi-Color Pearl Types: Multi-colored Tahitians, Multi-colored South Sea pearls and Multi-colored Freshwater pearls are all available in both round and baroque shapes.
Sizes: These can range in size from 6.0-7.0mm up through 15.0-16.0mm and higher, depending on the pearl type you choose.
Recommended Pairings: Yellow gold is ideal of Multi-colored South Sea pearl necklaces as the clasp won't clash with the Golden South Sea pearls mixed into the layout. For Tahitians, white gold clasps are always popular, especially considering their cooler color spectrum. For warmer Tahitian mixes that feature heavy amounts of green, gold or cherry then consider yellow gold pairings to warm these pearls up! Multi-colored Freshwater pearl necklaces and bracelets could go either way, but I tend to recommend the yellow gold option to enhance the pink and creamy white colors of the pearls and add an extra touch of luxury to the layout.
Fun Fact: Multi-color South Sea pearl necklaces are also known as Pelosi-pearls, named after the woman who wore them as her “trademark jewel”.
Tahitian multi-color necklaces are mixes of very light and very dark grey body color pearls with a wide range of overtones laid out to complement each other throughout the layout. The resulting necklaces can be very artistic and beautiful!
South Sea Multi-colored pearl necklaces are a mix of White and Golden South Sea pearls. Occasionally, dark Tahitian pearls are thrown in to liven up the layouts and create colorful contrasts.
Freshwater Multi-color necklaces and bracelets feature a mix of White, Lavender and Pink or Peach pearls, in various combinations. No two necklaces or bracelets are ever exactly the same!
About the Author
|I’ve been with Pure Pearls for well over 10 years and am incredibly passionate about what I do! My 15 year career in the jewelry industry spans working in the precious colored gemstone wholesale sector, as well as stints in diamond bridal jewelry manufacturing division. I earned my GIA Pearls certificate in 2004.
I’ve written extensively about pearls for many online trade publications including Jewellery Net Asia, the CPAA (Cultured Pearl Association of America), and of course, Pearl-Guide.com on all things pearl-related.
Feel free to email me with any questions or issues – I am always happy to help!