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Telling Black Pearls Apart- Which Is Which? A Handy Guide

Posted by Ashley on 10/28/2011


We’ve seen a lot of confusion lately over the web regarding black pearls- which are which, which to choose and how much to spend on them, so we thought we’d jump into the hubbub and provide some quick and easy to understand explanations and photos to clear up any lingering questions…



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We posted this picture on Facebook yesterday for a quick and fun contest – the first person to correctly identify each pearl type in order would be the winner of a pair of 7.0-8.0mm Freshwater pearl studs, and there were a lot of interesting entries, and the winner did get very close indeed! The correct order is: Black Akoya, Black Tahitian, Black Freshwater, Black Freshwater and Black Tahitian. Yes, we threw a trick pearl in there to throw everyone off, but also to show everyone the range of hues black Freshwater pearls are commonly found in.



Black Akoya Pearls

These are most often dyed; their surface colors tend to range from blackish-blue to blackish-green, and are almost always very dark in tone. The dye process saturates the nacre from the outside in, and tends to strip away iridescence leaving the surface a uniform color and an almost plastic-looking shine. Their most common sizes range from 5.0mm up through 9.5mm.


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Black Freshwater pearls

These can either be dyed or irradiated; PurePearls.com offers the irradiated pearls almost exclusively as they’re more colorful. Irradiated black Freshwater pearls can be intensely multi-hued peacock to denim-blue and violet/purplish colors to the intense blue-green colors with shifting iridescence on the surfaces. The two Freshwater pearls in the middle (intense blue-green and peacock/green-rose) are the ones that did such a great job tricking our contestants. Often, there will be little black “specks” visible on the surface of the pearl where the irradiation treatment did not completely cover the surface. Dyed black Freshwater pearls look strikingly similar to dyed black Akoya in terms of color, size and luster- the easiest way to tell the two apart is differences in the shape: Akoya pearls are perfectly round, while the Freshwater pearls will feature slight off-round to oval-ish shapes.


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Black Tahitian Pearls

These are the two largest pearls in the contest photo. Known for their naturally occurring dark shades and big sizes (8.0mm up through 15.0/16.0mm or so), Tahitian pearls are the only cultured naturally-black pearls available on the jewelry market with any regularity. Their body colors range from light Dove Greys all the way through Jet Black, however their most common tones are Dark Charcoal Greys with overtones that are typically Silver or Steel, classic Peacock Green, Aquamarine, Rose and Aubergine. Their lack of any color enhancing treatments means that their surfaces shimmer with subtle to intense rainbow iridescence and display a beautiful, touchable luster.


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For more tips, advice or answers to your questions relating to pearls, feel free to visit our Pearl Education Center, or contact the experts at PurePearls.com.

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