By Courtney Corbridge
In today’s market, the vast majority of pearls sold by jewelers are not, strictly speaking, natural pearls. They are cultured, which means that the pearl-instigating irritant is actually implanted inside the mollusk’s shell rather than naturally appearing there. Once the pearl is harvested, jewelers often, as they do with other gems, enhance or alter the color in a pearl using various treatments like bleaching (making white pearls whiter), irradiation (turning pearls black, silvery, or bluish-green shades), and dyeing (creating a variety of colors). Though this does not necessarily affect the quality or longevity of the pearl, it will, and should, be reflected in the price. These treated pearls, have likely been treated in order to compensate for a shorter development period, which will affect color, luster, and depth of nacre.
While untreated cultured pearls can take years to mature, treated pearls are removed in 8–9 months. The shorter maturation period means a smaller layer of nacre that needs to be artificially enhanced.
Nacre, also known as mother of pearl, is the natural substance on the inside of a mollusk’s shell. It is layered on the irritant over and over to create a finished pearl, the color of which is contingent upon the color of the mollusk’s natural nacre. According to the Gemological Institute of America, here are a few naturally colored pearls you can find from around the world:
Akoya: Largely produced in China and Japan, these pearls mostly have white and cream body colors with pink or green overtones. Yellow, pink, and blue akoyas can also be found.
Tahitian: Home of the famous “black pearl,” Tahiti and other French Polynesian islands traditionally produce darker pearls—grays, browns, blacks, purples, greens, and blues.
South Sea: These salt water pearls come from Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Largely pastel in color, they come in whites, creams, yellows, blues, and silvers. The pink, green, and blue overtones can additionally influence the appearance of the pearl.
Freshwater: This fairytale color collection of pearls, with its whites, creams, yellows, oranges, pinks, and purples, comes from the fresh waters of China and the United States. Here, you will also find the rainbow-colored orient pearl.
As pearls are quickly coming back in fashion, dive in and find the trendy color for you!
Article sponsored by Nancy & Co. Fine Jewelry.
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