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Akoya Pearls Color Guide

Akoya Pearls Color What color do Akoya pearls come in naturally? First, you must understand that pearl color has to be explained in two parts:

  • Body color
  • Overtone or Iridescence

Technically, the body color is described in three parts: hue, saturation and intensity. The hue refers to the general color impression that you get when you first look at the pearls. It is the main color of the pearl body. The saturation refers to the purity of the color. The intensity refers to how dark or light the color is.

Body Color of Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls are usually seen in a white or cream hue. But they also form naturally in dark beige, yellow and golden hues. Grey and blue Akoya pearls also can be found. However, the black Akoya pearls have been color treated. Akoya pearls do not naturally occur in the deep black color.

Overtones of Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls have an overtone that is an almost transparent color that looks like it’s floating on the surface of the pearl. It may look like a small circle of translucent color on the pearl surface. Akoya pearls can have overtones of pink (called rose’), green, silver, blue or ivory. The same pearl may have a combination of these overtones. For example, blue and rose’ overtones can give a violet overtone that is very beautiful.

The overtone depends on the thickness of the nacre making up the pearly outer layers, and the size and arrangement of the aragonite platelets in those layers of nacre.

Orient is seldom seen in round cultured Akoya pearls. It is a rainbow like iridescence that is seen more in natural pearls and in baroque shaped pearls.

Do Pearls Change Color?

Pearls may appear to change color according to the color surface they are displayed on and the lighting they are viewed under. Natural daylight is best to see what color the pearls really are. If you stand by a window, preferably on a slightly overcast day, but especially not in direct sunlight, you should be able to see the true color of the pearls. Professional pearl graders will use an artificial white light with a light color of 4,700 to 5,000 Kelvin to get good uniform lighting for viewing the pearls, as the natural light can vary according to the time of day or the latitude.

Place the pearls on a white background to view them, as only on a pure white background can the subtle color variations be discerned. Even fingerprints can slightly alter the perceived color, so make sure the pearls are clean before you make your choice. Just wiping them gently with a soft cloth can remove the fingerprints and allow you to see their true coloration and surface quality.