More Ways to Color Pearls

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In the post on Dyed Pearls I discussed how pearl companies will submerge lower quality pearls in wild dye colors to create bright and very unnatural looking pearls. But, there are more ways to color pearls. Specifically, they are other reasons for dying and tinting pearls other than the desire to take low quality pearls and create over-the-top looking colors.

pinking - another way to color pearls
Valerie Power/GIA

For example, there is a Japanese art of pinking. Pinking is the act of submerging white pearls in a jar of diluted red dye to create white pearls with a very subtle pink tint. When the cultured pearl industry was revitalized after World War II, the Japanese quickly noticed that American consumers preferred the pearls with a slight pink tone to them. So they obliged this consumer preference by tinting the white akoya pearls so they appeared to have a pink overtone. When the Chinese took over the majority of the cultured pearl production, they continued to do the same. I have heard that, to this day, many of the pearls coming out of Japan have been tinted by pinking.

Another way to color pearls is chemically. Now, the only naturally occuring black pearls come from the black lipped oyster most common in the area of French Polynesia. So, what is someone to do with white pearls when they really want black ones? Maybe you have freshwater pearls and you know there are no naturally occurring black freshwater pearls. It is possible to color pearls using Silver Nitrate.

silver nitrate solution - another way to color pearls

It is just like exposing film since silver nitrate is the material in photographic film that turns dark when exposed to light. If you soak pearls in silver nitrate and then expose them to light, the pearls turn tones of gray or black. The exact tone is based on how long they were soaked and how strong the silver nitrate solution was. Silver nitrate is the way to go to color chocolate pearls too.

We occasionally carried colored black pearls. Click here to see our Signature Black Pearl Necklace in Large Pearls.

What about taking color away from pearls? Read more about Bleaching Pearls.

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