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Pearl Colors and Overtones

Pearl color is dictated by the species of the mollusc, the color of the mantle tissue implant and the elements that are found in the water during the time the pearl is growing inside the mollusc.

Some molluscs produce pearls with a wider color range, but the most common body colors for each pearl type are as follows:

 Akoya Pearl Colors and Overtones Akoya Pearls are mostly white or cream. However on rare occasions beautiful blue Akoyas can be found. Yellow Akoyas also exist but are not as popular so seldom marketed. Some Akoya pearls are dyed black.
Freshwater Pearl Colors and Overtones Freshwater Pearls come in white or cream, shades of pink, peach and lavender. Each of those colors can vary greatly in shade from pearl to pearl. Freshwater pearls are color treated to produce black Freshwater pearls. These often have high iridescence and vary a lot from pearl to pearl in tone.
South Sea Pearl Colors and Overtones South Sea Pearls come in white or cream and a variety of shades of gold.
Tahitian Pearl Colors and Overtones Tahitian Pearls naturally occur in a wide variety of colors, often dark shades of grey, black, green, etc. They characteristically have beautiful overtones. (See below for explanation of Overtones)



Overtone is a subtle secondary color that is not the main body color, but a transparent color that hovers on the surface of the pearl.

High-quality white pearls, whether they be Akoya pearls, South Sea pearls or high-quality Freshwater pearls often have overtones of ivory or cream, silver or bright white, and rose or pink. The pearls will still be white, but will vary from creamy white to bright white to white with a slight pinkish blush. White South Sea pearls may occasionally have slight green or blue overtones.

Choosing the best overtone for your individual skin tone can make the difference to the pearls looking outstanding instead of just good on you. Choose an overtone of a shade that normally looks good on you and even if it doesn't seem noticeable on the white pearls, the pearls will look better on your skin.

Tahitian pearls have a much wider variety of overtones including blue, aubergine, pistachio, silver, cherry, green, copper, peacock, etc.


Very high quality pearls sometimes have orient, which is a rainbow iridescence that can sometimes occur when the nacre is very thick and the light is refracted through many layers. It is the most prized of all color factors. It is seen more often on baroque pearls than round pearls.