A question about dyed or color treated pearls!


Well-known member
Dec 29, 2016
So I am a bit confused when it comes to pearls (specifically akoyas) that aren't a natural color. If I have understood things right, then there are more than one way that they might be treated to obtain a certain color? What type of methods are being used, and how does one discern which pearl has been subjected to which method? Are there somewhere I can go and look at pictures of akoyas that are natural colored vs those that are dyed or otherwise "treated"? I know that black akoyas are always dyed, but it's the silver-grey and blue ones that confound me.

Edit: Just want to make it clear that my question has nothing to do with the so called "pearl parties".
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Silver grey to blues are often natural coloured these days. They have become popular over the last few years. Pale gold is another natural koya colour (dark gold is not)
most akoyas have a faint touch of colour which is bleached out to white , then often a blush of pink is added.
If you are asking because of pearl opening parties, those are nearly always cheap chinese freshwater pearls
I agree with everything pearlescence said, plus I would add that black akoyas are always dyed. They can look vaguely like Tahitians, until you've seen real Tahitians and then they look nothing like them. Plus akoyas are much smaller than most Tahitian pearls.
Pearlescence: No, I'm not asking because of pearl parties! (I am really against those kind of things!) I am asking because I have begun to really love colored akoyas and would like to add some more pieces to my collection. My favorites are those silvery-blue ones. And since I buy most of my pearls pre-loved I was wondering if there are some ways to tell the difference between dyed ones and natural ones (would not like to pay too much if it turns out that its dyed). So far I have only bought one necklace with silvery-blue akoyas. I bought it pre-loved and don't know that much about it. I thought it was most likely color treated or dyed, but I still bought it because I thought it was pretty (and not very expensive).
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BWeaves: Thanks! I knew about the black colored akoyas being dyed. Having only seen them in pictures, I think they often seem to have low luster and I agree that real Tahitians look superior in every way.
To me, black akoya are usually very uniform and flat black. they look dyed.
I don't think really strongly coloured akoyas have been around very long. Even last september's harvest was noticeably pale, although March's supplies were much better.
So you might be better, and more assured of quality, if you buy new. Blue akoya only come from a few farms in vietnam. I don't know of any others. (though there may be some)There are lots of very pale pastel akoya around now the Japanese growers and wholesalers are spotting that buyers are interested, but there are a huge number of dyed golds. The coloured akoya really only have the pot of colour waved in front of them, so to speak. Just a blush of colour. Anything more is suspect
The baroque blue akoyas and baroque white akoyas that PP sold back in April 2015 were from Japan, I recall. The really deep colored blues come from Vietnam, though.

The blue is caused by organic matter that comes naturally between the bead and the nacre; it is not the nacre itself that is blue/silver.
I do have some blue grey dyed pearls, and they look similar to the natural colored blues, but they have a flatter color to them. My natural colored blues have more variation, and rose or turquoise overtones. That doesn't mean there are not dull flat naturally colored blues out there, but I wouldn't buy them when I can have livelier looking ones.
I just took some photos of the difference between dyed akoya and custom dyed freshwaters when I was at Pearl Paradise last week. A friend sent me some jewelry from Vantel (the pearl party people ) and it took a photo of one of their strands along with them at PP. The strand of freshwater pearls to the left was AAA and specifically selected for this process before sending it in for dying because of the colors of pearls it contained. The center is dyed akoya, Right Vantel freshwater pearls.
Pearl Paradise dyed freshwater dyed akoya and vantel dyed freshwater.jpg
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I spent the weekend matching half drilled blacks for earring pairs. I know all about the colours 'black' comes in (arghhhhhh)
Great comparison shot lilliefuzzysocks. I'm not a huge fan of dyed pearls, but those PP freshwaters are really pretty.

I totally agree. It was a great picture and those PP freshwaters looked really nice! Thanks for posting that picture Lilliefuzzysocks (and I love your nickname btw!)
The blue is caused by organic matter that comes naturally between the bead and the nacre; it is not the nacre itself that is blue/silver.[/QUOTE]
It's the same with blue and green south seas (white and gold respectively)
Organic gunk residue kinda takes away the romance don't it?
The blue is caused by organic matter that comes naturally between the bead and the nacre; it is not the nacre itself that is blue/silver.
It's the same with blue and green south seas (white and gold respectively)
Organic gunk residue kinda takes away the romance don't it?[/QUOTE]

Oh yes, lol! I'd take the organic gunk residue over not having it though... it produces such gorgeous colors.

First picture is dyed freshwater, second is dyed baroque akoyas. The chinese freshwater dye job is more muddled with less luster than the vintage akoyas. I added another picture of the akoyas bc the second one looks like a flash was used, but I kept it there so you can seethe dye job shows a very consistent color throughout the pearl. From my experience, baroques tend to have varying color throughout the pearl since nacre is concentrated in the ridges and bumps. The next strand are round vintage blue akoyas, but I think they were dyed. They were pretty worn in places and so it was hard to tell. They look pretty in the picture, but when you hold the strand up to the light, you can see the shell bead lines through the thin nacre. The last couple of pictures are vintage blue baroque akoyas from the 60s. I think they are dyed because of their color variation, but not positive. They are very pretty and very heavy for their size and the black marks are my camera, not the pearls.



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