Every time you hear the world pearl, the first thing that probably comes to mind is that beautiful piece in a sparkling milky white color. Well, no one can blame you if you think this way. After world, white and pearl are almost synonymous words.
This image has already been so embedded in people’s minds that most of them are surprised to find out that there are colored pearls as well.
Pearls can occur in various overtone and body colors and some colored pearls are even highly in demand and very expensive. Although white pearls are the traditional and quintessential pearl color, the colored pearls can really add a unique flair to your collection of jewelries and add an unconventional and new look to it.
The question now is, how are colored pearls made in the first place?
Colored Pearls and How They are Made
Color plays a very critical role as far as the grading of a pearl is concerned. This color will include the body color and the overtone of the pearl. A pearl’s color can develop in various ways and it can come in a plethora of colors that range from the common white color to black. Pearl is a type of organic gemstone that is formed in a living creature. This allows enough opportunities for an array of colors to develop.
Natural Body Color of Pearls
Pearls have natural color and the primary color is known as the body color of the pearl. Depending on the pearl’s natural surroundings, a pearl’s body color could be white, cream, silver, gold, black, blue, or green. A pearl’s natural color is the result of the combination of several factors such as the specific type of oyster responsible for the pearl’s production, the conditions of the water, and sometimes, the particular type of nucleus that was implanted on the pearl to trigger its creation.
Orient and Overtone Colors
The overtones of pearls are translucent colors that can sometimes appear on the main body color of the pearl. It can also resemble a smoky layer of color. Even though overtones can be translucent, these can change the pearl’s body color just as how white pearls can appear light pink if they have a rose overtone. While there are pearls with strong overtones, others don’t have any.
The word orient pertains to the shimmering colors that resemble glitter. The orient of a pearl is determined through the light that gets reflected in the different thin nacre layers that make up a pearl.
There are some pearls that come from certain places and these are usually in demand due to their uniqueness. For instance, akoya pearls are white pearls that are as good as the classic pearls. These akoya pearls usually feature overtones of ivory, cream, and rose.
The freshwater pearl is another example that comes in different pastel shades such as purple, plum, tangerine, pink, peach, white, and black. Tahitian pearls are famous for their darker hues of gray and black. The body color is normally black with varying overtones that make the pearl turn dark green or gray.
Pearls with Artificial Colors
Not all types of pearls have natural colors. A lot of pearls are just artificially colored through the dyeing treatment process known as artificial infusion while others are subjected to irradiation to change their color. It is very easy to identify if a pearl is artificially treated because all you need to do is check the drilling hole to find the color concentration in the pearl. Artificially treated pearls will have a dye present or darkened pearl nucleus when the pearl went through a radiation treatment.
Fake pearls or faux pearls are made in a plethora of colors. It is done through either coating the inner part of the hollow beads then using wax to fill them. The outer part can also be coated with color wherein the pearl gets filled with pearl powder or the filler used for faux pearls. The faux pearls will then be dipped in different pearl film solutions to increase their value. Once the dipping is finished, a final polish will be completed to achieve a shiny coat for the faux pearl.
Enhancements of Pearl Colors
Almost all types of pearls that you can find in the market, including saltwater and freshwater pearls, get subjected to one form of treatment or another to enhance their appearance and color. Below are several treatments often done on pearls right now:
There are times when pearls are dyed to achieve rare and beautiful colors customers are looking for. These include gold and black to imitate the appearance of Golden and Tahitian south sea pearls. Makers of pearls usually dye pearls to cater to the requirements of specific markets. In the United States for example, Americans pearls with pink overtones. Meanwhile, Germans love white pearls and Indians go for cream colored pearls. To meet the needs of these markets, some pearl farmers resort to dyeing their pearls.
Bleaching and polishing pearls
After the extraction of pearls, these are usually polished in solution and bleached to attain that perfect white color. The treatment is very common in the pearl industry, particularly when it comes to South Sea pearls.
It is a method that uses gamma rays for influencing the pearl’s color and has various effects on freshwater and saltwater pearls. The technique is being used in Akoya saltwater pearls to make the nucleus of the pearl darker and create a more valuable and unique pearl color. In freshwater pearls, gamma rays are being used for darkening the nacre layers of the pearl. The method can cause a metallic and beautiful shine to emerge on the surface of the freshwater pearls.
It is done through the dyeing process that creates a pinkish overtone on the pearl. Since pink pearls or those pearls with overtones of pink are in demand, pearl cultivators cater to this demand through this method.
Pearl treatments are used to enhance the color of pearls and are well-accepted and very common in cultured pearls. Make sure that the colored pearls you buy are priced accordingly and choose only trusted manufacturers.