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From the Classic White Pearl to the Exotic Black – A Close Look at Pearl Colors

Pearl Colors

They’re lustrous, they’re iridescent – and they are often the perfect pop of color to an outfit. The classic milky-hued white pearl is iconic in countless ways, but few know that the enigmatic gems of the sea come in nearly every color of the rainbow.

Classic whites were believed to be the tears of gods, lavender pearls were famous for their seductive powers in Tibetan cultures, while the mysterious black hues have been associated with protective powers. Pearls have been linked with the idea of divinity since the oldest times. In fact, many Asian cultures agree that the beauty, smoothness and overall magical appearance of pearls in low lifeforms such as oysters signaled the presence of divinity. Old civilizations believed that humans were strikingly similar to pearls. Constantly evolving towards perfection (wisdom and truth), humans are much like a gem inside an oyster.

Whatever your favorites may be, each color comes with a story – a story deeply rooted in ancient civilizations, mythology and legends.

Are Colored Pearls Always Natural?

Many pearls found on the market today are enhanced in color through a wide range of treatments. Some of the most popular techniques used to enhance the hue of the gems of the sea include dyeing pearls, bleaching pearls, pearl pinking and irradiating pearls.

From the white pearl to the iridescent gems in dark peacock shades, we’re taking a look at the plethora of natural pearl colors. Keep on reading to find out what mesmerizing shades the gems of the sea have to offer, what they symbolize and the ancient legends surrounding them.

The Language of Natural Pearl Colors

The Iconic: White Pearls

White Pearls

As the quintessential classic pearl, the white pearl is cultured both in fresh and salt waters, with Freshwater Pearls being the most extensively produced type of white pearls in the world. Akoya Pearls also come in white with many overtone varieties, as well as South Sea Pearls, which are usually the most valuable type cultured today.

The Overtones

  • Silver – Bright white
  • Rose – Soft pink
  • Ivory/Cream – French vanilla

Symbolism, Myths and Legends

In Western cultures, white pearls overwhelmingly symbolize innocence and purity – which is why they are a staple statement for brides on their wedding day. Western brides are not the only ones who opt for pearls. In fact, Asian brides wear the lustrous gems on their wedding day as a symbol of fertility. Symbolizing not only innocence but also new beginnings, the white pearl is also a highly popular gift for occasions like graduations, new jobs and major milestones (especially the 30th wedding anniversary), as well as June birthdays.

There are many pearls of wisdom coming from Chinese mythology. One of the most popular myths associates pearls – more specifically, white pearls – with tears. The Chinese believed that pearls were tears shed by dragons, mermaids or angels. The Greeks seemed to agree. In fact, Greek mythology professed that pearls were tears shed by goddesses. But the mythical link between the classic white pearl and tears is often misunderstood, since its origins indicate that the classic gems of the sea had the power to keep newlywed brides from crying and predict a happy marriage.

The Wise: Black Pearls

Black Pearl the Wise

Like all pearls, black pearls get their color from their oyster’s nacre. Produced by the Pinctada margaritifera, the pearls form in a section of the oyster that features a black strip of nacre inside the shell. Since authentic black pearls are cultured in the French Polynesia, it’s no surprise that most legends surrounding these majestic gems of the sea originate from the Polynesian culture.

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The Overtones

  • Copper
  • Aquamarine
  • Blue-Green
  • Rose
  • Green
  • Peacock

Symbolism, Myths and Legends

Black pearls are rare, mysterious and carry an aura of exoticism. After all, they are cultivated in one of the most exotic destinations in the world: the French Polynesia. The lush and vibrant Polynesian culture holds the black pearls of the region at high value, often correlating them with the idea of wisdom, everlasting love, wealth and prosperity, all concepts inspired by the rarity and value of these dark gems.

The darkest pearls are accompanied by the widest range of legends and myths, complete with fascinating symbolism. Many beliefs circle around the idea of black pearls as a symbol of protection. While not typically the color of romance, in Polynesian culture, black pearls covey the idea of love, as well as fertility (like the classic white pearl) and peace – and their unspoken message is ‘love persists’. The legend says that Lono, a Polynesian god, came down on a rainbow to his love, carrying black pearls as gifts that reflected the shades of the rainbow through their iridescence. Moreover, the Chinese believed that black pearls were created within the heads of dragons, which is why Chinese mythology associates them with wisdom and knowledge.

The Regal: Golden Pearls

Golden Pearls the Regal

With their lush, precious aura and unmistakable glow, it’s no wonder that Golden South Sea pearls are among the most valuable pearls cultured today. Grown in the gold-lip variety of the Pinctada maxima, these gems of the sea are naturally producing gold-like shades. Luxurious, lustrous and regal, golden pearls have been cherished since the oldest civilizations.

The Overtones

  • Champagne
  • Neutral gold
  • Rose gold
  • Green / Bronze

Symbolism, Myths and Legends

Since their shade is very close to the actual color of gold, it is no surprise that golden pearls convey the same meanings as gold itself. Inspiring, wise and enlightening, the language of gold is timeless. Gold conveys prosperity and influence. It denotes prestige and optimism. It shines eternally.

Traditionally, the Chinese love golden pearls, believing they bring prosperity and luck. In fact, Chinese artworks often depict dragons holding golden pearls in their mouths or claws. One of the ancient Chinese myths talks about the fact that pearls used to fall from the sky when dragons fought in the skies above. Another beautiful, but non color-specific myth details how pearls originated as raindrops swallowed by oysters.

The Innocent: Pink and Peach Pearls

Pink and Peach Pearls

Natural pink pearls found on the market today all come from Freshwater pearl mussels. The range of shades is nothing short of impressive. From soft shades of peach to blush, gold-overtone rose and undertones of beige, pink pearls present a large variety in coloring.

The Overtones

  • Gold
  • Aquamarine
  • Rose
  • Green
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Symbolism, Myths and Legends

Like the quintessential white pearl, pink and peach pearls are associated with the idea of purity and innocence, but also energy and romance. Ideal as gifts for new beginnings, pink pearls are unmistakably optimistic and joy-filled, delivering a message of a flourishing future.

Some legends say that pink pearls also carry protective, yet very specific powers. It is believed that the rose-colored gems of the seas come with the ability of protecting humans from sharks. But more than any other type of shade, pink pearls have many connections with spirituality and the idea of a mystical awakening. Believed to stimulate the heart chakra, they are thought to open the heart of the wearer to new feelings and emotions.

Shop Pearl Necklaces

JEWELRY SPOTLIGHT:

Whether you’re tempted by the quintessential white pearl or looking for color, our collection of Pearl Necklaces has it all. In love with the purity and innocence of pink pearls or mesmerized by the intense shades of the black gems of the sea? Lustrous and elegant, pearl necklaces are timeless. Browse our premium collection, find your shade, find your style, and customize your piece to perfection.

The Seductive: Lavender Pearls

Lavender Pearls

Lavender pearls are usually produced in China’s lakes and ponds – and most of the gems found on the market are of the Freshwater variety. Various types of blue Akoya Pearls may present lavender overtones – and the same goes for Tahitian Pearls. Moreover, certain South Sea Pearls in silver-blue shades also qualify as lavender pearls, with their aqua-rose overtones.

The Overtones

  • Green and aquamarine (cool shades)
  • Rose and gold (warm shades)

Symbolism, Myths and Legends

Shades of lavender or violet are often symbolic for the idea of spirituality and awakening. Lighter, softer shades of violet are linked to sensuality. Purple pearls are also often the symbol of creativity and artistic abilities, stimulating imagination and creation.

The legends haven’t forgotten this unique pearl shade. In fact, many stories surrounding lavender pearls circle around the idea of sensuality. Tibetan culture speaks of a certain type of pearl that monks used to posses and that caused any woman to fall madly in love. According to the legend, the gem was described as a ‘seduction pearl’ and believed to have a mesmerizing purple shade.

The Protective: Chocolate Pearls

Chocolate Pearls

Chocolate pearls come from Tahitian Pearls, which present an impressive variety of shades, ranging from copper and bronze to peacock and blue. The chocolate overtones are incredibly rich and warm-hued, with sparkles of gold in certain lights. Lesser known fact: some chocolate-colored pearls on the market are actually dyed Freshwater pearls. Most hues of natural Tahitian chocolate pearls vary between warm cocoa and dark chocolate, with a unique type of iridescence and color-changing properties depending on light.

The Overtones

  • Rose
  • Gold
  • Subtle bronze
  • Subtle green

Symbolism, Myths and Legends

The language of chocolate pearls speaks of harmony, healing, comfort, appreciation and protection. Various cultures used to believe that chocolate-colored pearls came from sick oysters. However, this myth is proven untrue, since the only natural chocolate pearls are rare Tahitian Pearls. Like all Tahitian Pearls, the brown-hued gems get their color from the shade of the oyster’s nacre. Pearl farmers make sure the oysters they are looking after are well taken care off and protected from predators, so the likelihood of unwell oysters producing pearls is minimal.

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The Successful: Blue Pearls

Blue Pearls

A classic white pearl can present a very subtle blue overtone while still maintaining its iconic appeal. Many types gems of the sea feature aqua hues, with the color palette ranging from the softest pale blue to deep, rich blue and even darker, deeper shades. South Sea Pearls sometimes feature blue-silver overtones – and this type of pearl is often very large as well. Akoya Pearls can also come in shades of blue, with the new Vietnamese Pearls variety presenting rich blues. Darker blue shades come from Tahitian Pearls, with the color range starting from peacock and teal to midnight blue.

The Overtones

  • Rose
  • Violet
  • Aquamarine
  • Strong blue

Symbolism, Myths and Legends

Blue pearls are often considered an amulet for overcoming one’s limits. Representing success, happiness and courage, aqua-colored gems also convey a message of serenity. Like the color itself, blue pearls denote an aura of tranquility, calm and trust. Their qualities make them ideal gifts for someone in need of a little strength and affirmation, someone starting a new job or building a new business. Blue-green pearls (such as certain shades of Tahitian Pearls) are often associated with similar concepts such as growth and wealth, as well as vitality and productivity. The blue pearl is also associated with the idea of romance. Although not typically a romantic color, various myths detail how the owners of blue pearls will find true love in the nearest future.

Peal Colors – The Inspiration for Legends and Myths

Few gems found in nature are as varied in color as the elegant gems of the sea. From the classic white pearl to the deepest black, pearls come in the widest range of shades. And they’re all enticing and symbolic in their own way. The unique beauty and overwhelming plethora of pearl shades have inspired legends since the oldest times, as well as myths that convey the aura and power of the miraculous gems. Each hue carries a story of its own – stories speaking about wisdom, love, prosperity and protection.

Multicolor Pearls

JEWELRY SPOTLIGHT:

Each and every pearl shade is stunning in its own way. If you simply can’t pick your favorite hue, opt for one of our Multicolor Pearl jewelry pieces. Find your dream necklace or bracelet featuring pearls of different colors, masterfully paired together by our experts.

If you love pearls and their unique colors, make sure to check out our new eBook. Read our comprehensive Shopping Guide on How to Buy Pearls Online and find your dream jewelry piece. Download our eBook below!

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Carla Jonas