Mollusks create pearls in a palette of colors, from white to black and almost everything in between. Pearl co lour refers specifically to the color of the pearl's body, considered the fundamental color of the pearl. Colors generally range from cream, to silver-white, to black. But there are also color overtones reflected across a pearl's surface. In fact, the color of a pearl more often than not is a meld of its body color and its overtone, just as the term "white-rose" will describe a white pearl with a rosy-colored hue.
White or Rosé Colored Pearls
Akoya cultured pearls are white lustrous pearls with usually cream or rosé colored overtones. These are the classic pearls most often used in pearl strands. Classic Japanese Akoya cultured pearls come in shades of white, the most valuable shades being rosé and white. The other shades are white-rose, silver-white rose, greenish-white rose, and greenish-white.
Freshwater pearls come in various pastel shades of white, pink, peach, lavender, plum, purple, and tangerine.
Cream Colored Pearls
South Sea cultured pearls come in shades of lustrous white, often with silver or rosé overtones. They are larger in size than the Akoya pearl and are also used in the creation of fine pearl strands and ropes.
Black or Gray Colored Pearls
Black pearls are known as Tahitian pearls, and come most often in shades of black and gray. While a Tahitian pearl has a black body color, it will vary in its overtones, which most often will be green or pink. Tahitian cultured pearls differ from other pearls in one important respect. Yes, they are cultured, as opposed to natural -- but their black color is naturally produced by the oyster, which makes them "naturally black" cultured pearls.
What Color is the Best?
Color does not affect the quality of a pearl, but does affect the perceived beauty of the pearl according to the individual taste of the "eye of the beholder". Some colors have become more popular than others in particular markets. For example, white pearls are the most popular in America, while silver are more sought after in Asia. This regional color preference usually has something to do with the skin tones of the wearers. Most jewelry experts agree that a buyer's color choice should be primarily based on what will look good on the person who will wear the pearls. In generals, pink pearls look best on fairer skin tones, while yellow or golden pearls look best on darker skin tones.
Black-Lip Oyster: An oyster of unusual size and diameter found in the South Pacific, from which is derived the famous black pearls known in the industry as Tahitian Pearls. Other colors produced by this mollusk, besides black, are silver to light gray, dark gray, orange, gold, green, blue, and purple.
Gold-Lip Oyster: The large oyster, found in the waters off Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and Japan, which produces gold-colored South Sea Pearls.
Pinctada Fucata: The industry term for the saltwater mollusk that produces Akoya cultured pearls.
Pinctada Maxima: The industry term for the White-lip oyster that produces South Sea Pearls.
Pinctada Margaritifera: The industry term for the saltwater mollusks that produces Tahitian cultured pearls.
Uniondae Hyriopsis Schlegeli: The freshwater mussel, prevalent in China, which produces a strong pearl with thick nacre and a bright luster. Its pearls come in a palette of colors ranging through plum, lavender, peach, apricot, curry, red pepper, cinnamon, celery and sage.
White-Lip Oyster: Large oysters found in the waters around Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan, and producing good-sized South Sea cultured pearls whose tints include silver-white, pink and cream.