Turning Pearls into Gold

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An interesting article came out Thailand this week about new technology to turn pearls into gold! Thai researchers at the Synchrotron Light Research Institute have figured out how to change the natural color of pearls from white to gold! Okay, so not exactly pearls to gold but pearls to a gold color!

turning pearls into gold by The Pearl Girls

Did you read my last post on Yellow Pearls? Pearls that are naturally golden to yellow in color originate from a South Sea mollusk found in the waters near Australia, Indonesia, The Philippines. Up to this point, gold colored pearls are either formed naturally or they are dyed. Some Chinese pearl suppliers will actually dip their pearls in dye to change their color. It is quite a process. The pearls stay in the dye for up to a few weeks and they will apply heat to infuse the dye into the pearls.

can white pearls ever look as natural as these golden yellow south sea pearls by The Pearl Girls?

 

As we know, the gem industry works with all types of gem enhancements. In my opinion, some of these enhancements can be favorable while others, not so much. Turning white pearls to yellow pearls would be a complete game changer IF the pearls maintained their natural look. This tells me that pearl sellers could sell golden yellow pearls and possibly deceive the pearl buyer into thinking they are South Sea Pearls. South Sea Pearls have a much lower yield than Chinese or Japanese white pearls and their price tag tends to be higher. The other thought is, this is a way for consumers to have yellow pearls that look like South Sea pearls without paying so much for the golden pearl look. It all depends on if these pearls are sold with complete disclaimer. And, unfortunately, disclaimers are not always read and on hand in the jewelry industry. But, this is very interesting, nevertheless!

The researchers at the Synchrotron Light Research Institute use a technique called X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy to determine the local geometric structure of a pearl.

the-crystalline-layers-of-nacre-on-pearls-from The-Pearl-Girls
Thank you for the image, berkeley.edu!

A pearl is formed similar to a crystal lattice with layers upon layers of interlocking crystals. This crystalline structure determines many physical properties of a pearl (which makes it similar to other inorganic minerals and gems). What are some of these properties? Well, luster, for one. The way the crystalline structure is formed directly relates to how shiny the pearl looks. Because at this point the luster is a reflection of the structure and nothing more. Other physical properties include transparency and color. The color of a pearl is based on two things : the color of the nacre and the crystalline structure of the nacre. Determine the structure and how it relates to color is the first step in manipulating this structure.

Thailand is highly involved in the gem and jewelry business so it will be interesting what affect, if any, this new technology has on the pearl trade.

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