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Pearl Colors – Your Guide to Choosing Perfect Pearls


Pearls offer an astonishing array of colors for everyone to love. From classic white Akoya pearls to jet black Tahitian pearls, silver and gold South Sea pearls and even deep shades of lavender to yes, even blue!


Perhaps the best-loved gems of all time, pearls—both natural and modern cultured pearls—occur in a wide variety of colors. The most familiar colors are white and cream (a light yellowish brown). Black, gray, and silver are also fairly common, but the palette of pearl colors extends to every hue. The main color, or body color, is often modified by additional colors called overtones, which are typically pink (sometimes called rosé), green, purple, or blue. Some pearls also show the iridescent phenomenon known as orient.

White and black pearls are the most popular, but there are also silver, gold & pink. Pearls also have tints or undertones that can make it have a glow. For example, a pearl can look white but when studied and light is reflected off of it, it can give off a hue of pink, green or blue. Black pearls are rarely black, they can be shades of green, purple, blue, grey, silver or peacock. The very best pearls have a metallic mirror-like luster.

Below to navigate this article to view pictures and descriptions of the most common pearl colors.

White Pearls

Whether it’s the iconic Akoya pearl, or glamorous 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 Fast Facts

  • 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 have traditionally been worn by brides.

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 are considered the "queen of gems". These luxurious pearls range in size from 8.0mm 16.0mm and larger.

Popular overtones are:  Rose - warm to cool hint of pink (and the most rare),Silver - bright, cool white (most prevalent) andCream / Ivory - warm hint of French Vanilla

Black Pearls

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 Fast Facts


  • 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 - quite 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.

Tahitian pearls are cultured in the Pinctada margaritifera saltwater pearl oyster in French Polynesia, and range in size from 8.0-9.0mm through 14.0-15.0mm and larger. The pearls feature primary body colors ranging from pale dove grey to dark charcoal grey to near jet black hues.

Popular overtones are: Peacock, Cherry, Blue-Green, Neutral Silver/Steel and more.

Golden Pearls

Opulent, luxurious and best of all, naturally colored, Golden South Sea pearls are some of the largest and most valuable 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.

Fast Facts for Golden Pearls


  • 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 with 14K Golden body colors are considered a "Medium-Tone" Golden hue.

Pearls featuring the 14K Medium-Deep Golden hue 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.

Pink and Peach Pearls

Naturally colored pink pearls are cultured in the Freshwater pearl mussel, Hyriopsis cumingii (along with various hybrid mussels bred to produce unique colors and sizes) in freshwater aquaculture ponds on China. Each Freshwater pearl mussel can be nucleated up to 25 times on each side of the shell, making for a stunningly colorful harvest.

Pink to Peach Pearl Fact Sheet


  • 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.

Peach Freshwater pearls range from pale peaches to deeper orangey and apricot colors.

Lavender Pearls

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.

Lavender Pearl Fast Facts


  • 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 paler shades of Lavender range from a dirty-rose mauve color to pastel lilac.

Typical overtones will be pastel Green, Gold, Aquamarine or Rose.

Blue Pearls

Perhaps the rarest 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 Fast Facts


  • 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.

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

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.

Quick Facts About Chocolate Pearls


  • 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.

Multi-Colored Pearls

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-Colored Pearls Fast Facts


  • 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”.

Freshwater Multi-color necklaces and bracelets feature a mix of White, Lavender and Pink or Peach pearls.

These layouts are arranged in various combinations. No two necklaces or bracelets are ever exactly the same!

How Do Pearls Get Their Color?

Oysters make colored pearls in a variety of ways, starting with the color of the outer edge of the shell ⁠— called the mollusk’s “lip.” For instance, Tahitian pearls get their light to dark charcoal grey colors from the black-lipped saltwater Tahitian pearl oyster, Pinctada margaritifera. Notice the grey to silvery hues present on the edge of the shell.

Another way pearls get their color is from microscopic pigments inside the conchiolin layer. Conchiolin is the organic “glue” that holds the crystalline aragonite layers together. Conchiolin cements these platelets together (think of the structure of a pearl as something like a brick wall, and the conchiolin is the cement).

When the conchiolin is pigmented with grey, brown, reddish-brown, black or other colors, this pigment shows through the thin crystalline layers to give the appearance of blue, grey, yellow, green, bronze, black pink and orange hues in the surface of the pearl.

Lastly, aragonite platelets are the semi-transparent, hexagonal-shaped, microns-thin crystals that make up the prismatic layers of the pearl. When white light strikes and penetrates the surface of the pearl and its layers, the light beam is refracted back at the viewer in its entire spectrum, allowing the viewer to see the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. This phenomenon also heavily influences the pearl’s overtone, or faint iridescent colors that are visible over the body color of the pearl.

Golden South Sea Pearls.

Left: Medium Golden Tone with Light Rose Overtones Right: Deep Golden South Sea pearl with Bronze and Green Overtones.


As you can see, each of the Golden South Sea pearls above displays varying shades of Golden body color intensity, however the overtone or faint iridescent color lying over the main body color influence the pearl’s overall color to the viewer. The pearl on the left shows a faintly blushing “warm” tone due to its Rose overtones, while the pearl on the right appears much “cooler” due to its Green and Bronze overtones.

While the science of pearls is still evolving, we now have a fairly good idea of how a pearl’s color is influenced both by its environment and by the host mollusk. These factors are what gives pearls natural colors ranging from white to chocolate as shown above in this article.

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