I've studied pearls for several years and been through GIA's pearl program (limited as it was), but I don't recall learning much about black Akoya pearls. I saw another thread on this site in which a member said that all black Akoya pearls were dyed; however, I birthed (harvested) one directly from the shell and out of the sac today myself, so I know it was not dyed. That post was several years old . . . Does anyone have more current, accurate information on the rarity (or lack of) in black Akoyas? I'd be so grateful to learn more.
Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert
Marina del Rey, CA
I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the black pearl is dyed. There are factories in Japan and now (primarily) in China that insert those pearls into the mollusks. After they insert the pearls, the shells are dropped into a chemical solution that causes them to constrict and close, and then preserve them until they make their way to their "pearl-in-an-oyster" destination. A lot of the factories will even insert freshwater pearls into akoya pearl oysters. You know this is what you are dealing with when pearls come out in freshwater colors like peach and lavender, and some of the pearls are slightly egg-shaped.
I am very familiar with the operation because I was approached by Budweiser years ago to assist in getting akoya shell for their pearl-in-a-shell operation. I brought in a few hundred shells and they weren't happy at all - not all the pearls were perfectly formed, they were different sizes, etc. They responded with a spread sheet detailing exactly what they wanted in every shell; the pearl sizes, the pearl colors, the number of pearls per shell, etc. That, of course, is impossible. That is when I started doing research and found out the real story behind the pearl-in-a-shell operations. One of the companies that does it in Guangzhou is the Fukui shell factory.
Wow. What fascinating information! The 'pearl in a shell' thingy is getting fancier and fancier in its execution! What a perfect carnival or midway item!!!
"The day my love and I found the pearl in the oyster he won for me- so dreamy, I will cherish it forever."
Now pearls are like teddy bears once used to be; smart guys use them to woo.
Thanks for the info, Jeremy. While I haven't had any yet that weren't perfectly round, I have had some pinkish and peachy colors that surprised me in "Akoyas." This is fascinating and sad at the same time. I'm just about over the Chinese trend of shortcutting and faking so many great things. Sigh. For a pearl nut like me, it's still incredibly fun to "birth" them--but I appreciate the information as well. Thanks again!