Pearl Processing VS. Pearl Treatments

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2Pearl Processing, Treatments, Enhancements?

Thanks for all your emails! Here is a question about the difference between pearl processing vs. treatments:

Hi Pearl Girls, this is Michael and I have been interested in pearls to give as a gift and stumbled upon your youtube video “See A Pearl Farm in China by The Pearl Girls“.

I recently bought a pearl from an online retailer and a certificate of authenticity came along with it that guarantees that their pearls have never been dyed or treated in any way, shape, or form.

However, your video shows that after harvest, pearls undergo various treatments (tumbling, heating, and polishing) to optimize its color and luster. So if most, if not all, pearls undergo treatments to enhance pearls’ luster and color, then are those companies that are handing out certificates stating that their pearls have never been dyed or treated any way deceiving? Or is it that their statements refer to some other enhancements or treatments?

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your help, I checked out your website and love what you are doing.


Triple strand white, pink and peacock necklace

The Difference Between Processing & Treatments

Hi Michael!

Thanks for reaching out! Every pearl producer does something to their pearls after harvest and before selling them. Now, it might be as simple as just washing the pearls. In Mexico, first they clean their pearls, then rub them with mineral oil. In Tahiti, the farmers will rub the pearls with salt and occasionally buff them. We call these cleaning and buffing procedures post-harvest or post-production processing. So, it is safe to say all pearl farms do some sort of processing. To what extent this processing is depends on the pearl farm.

Now, there is a huge debate between processing and treatment. Treatments are usually done to improve the appearance of lower quality pearls. Therefore, many pearl sellers are against enhancing lower quality pearls. But, what is treatment and what is simply processing? That is the debate.

The current accepted understanding is that Chinese and Japanese pearls are sorted, drilled, bleached, sometimes tinted (this used to happen more with Japanese pearls), buffed and then finally matched and strung. These are all part of post-production processing. So, if you purchased Chinese or Japanese pearls, they most likely have gone through this process (highlighted in the video) but the industry accepts this as processing, not treatment.

Treatments would include irradiation, coating, dying or other modifications which alter the appearance of pearls. The key here is that treatments are usually classified as an enhancement that changes how the pearls look, but those changes are not necessarily permanent. For example, pearls that have been dyed  can fade over time. Coating can rub off. The problem is, of course, what we consider processing may not be permanent either. Polished or buffed pearls can lose their luster. But, that opens up a larger debate…

Washing & Polishing = Post-Production Processing

Many other pearl manufacturers (not from Japan or China) process their pearls by washing and polishing. Again, the industry does not consider this a “treatment,” it is simply processing.

As for your pearls and the included certificate, yes, these pearls may have undergone some of those post-production processing and still not be considered treated.

So, the answer is yes, your pearls most likely were not treated in any way. However, depending on where they came from, they may have been processed the way the pearls were in my video.

If you have any more questions, let me know!



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