File this one under tips for how to shop for pearls! Many times you will find pearl companies selling freshwater black pearls. Now I have told y’all all about the amazing pearl adventure travels to French Polynesia for black pearls. Freshwater black pearls are not the same as Tahitian black pearls. Freshwater black pearls are simply freshwater pearls that have been dyed black. Here is how we know (without even looking at them!)
There are no naturally colored freshwater black pearls! Remember that 98% of the world’s freshwater pearls come from China. Remember, also, that a mollusk can only produce pearls within the range of colors of its shell. So, Chinese freshwater mollusks range from pink to peach to mauve to white. You will only find natural colored freshwater pearls in that range. I hold space for the very rare freshwater black pearl that will be one day discovered on some river and make someone tons of money. There MIGHT be a freshwater black pearl somewhere, someday. But, if you are looking at pearls currently on the market and for sale to all of us, you will not find a naturally colored freshwater black pearl. Or, I feel called to say, you will not find a freshwater pearl whose native color is black. There certainly might be someone dying pearls with “all-natural” dye and calling it a naturally colored black pearl. Right? You never know!
It is well known that certain treatments may be done to pearls to enhance their beauty after they have been harvested, this includes anything from cleaning pearls to heating them in a mild bleach bath to whiten the white pearls. If pearls are dyed, they are subject to the same treatments and then they are simply immersed in dye. Usually, the pearl company will drill the holes in the pearls first and then place them in dye for three to four weeks. Some companies use a simple dye while others use silver nitrate which is an inexpensive salt of silver. It can be prepared by reacting silver with nitric acid. It is water soluble and stable to light and it is used because with brief exposure it will color pearls purple, brown or black.
There is room in the market for these colored pearls. First and foremost, a freshwater black pearl will cost significantly less than a saltwater black pearl. They are a great alternative as we save up for the real deal! Plus, colored pearls can be so much fun! They are sometimes mixed with colored beads and they can make for real statement pieces.
There is one more thing to keep in mind. Although some people think that freshwater is synonymous with “not round,” this is simply not true! Sure, there are many irregularly shaped freshwater pearls (they don’t have that beautiful round nucleus like saltwater pearls!) but there are many absolutely gorgeous, over-the-top beautiful, high quality freshwater pearls. I know because we sell them! Just because you find freshwater black pearls that are round, this does not mean that they are something different. These will still fall under the category of a colored pearl, the pearl company simply dyed their round freshwater pearls.
I am a modern day treasure hunter who travels the world for gorgeous pearls and amazing adventures. I own a pearl jewelry and jewelry repair business, ThePearlGirls.com, with a cute retail store in Athens, GA. I also have a Pearl Travel business and travel blog at TheWorldofPearl.com.