Do vintage south sea pearls turn yellow over time?


Oct 4, 2017
Hello all,

Long time lurker, looking to be educated xD

I've recently come into possession of a vintage strand of south sea pearls and they seem rather yellow.
I've heard of akoyas changing colour if stored too long.
Do south sea pearls also yellow if stored too long?

Please see pics.


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Hello Buffetm and Welcome to our Pearl Loving Forum!
We have lots of Members with great knowledge on SSPs and will wait for them to answer shortly!
Again: Welcome!
I think it's possible that all pearls yellow with age, especially if they've been kept in a box and not worn.

It could also be that the pearls need a good washing and restringing. If the person who previously wore them got perfume or hairspray on them, or smoked, it's possible the yellow might wash off.
I agree with Bweaves. In my experience, Akoya pearls are the ones that have a greater chance at "yellowing" due to several factors (including having been bleached), but all white pearls could yellow after time and the exposure to certain elements that she mentioned. Dark pearls would be less affected.
Are you sure these are South Sea Pearls Buffetm ???
​​​​​​​Could you post some photos please?
I have never noticed that south sea pearls yellow but the oldest ones I have is about 10 years. I have never noticed any colorchange in them at all accually. But maybe it's possible. There are however lots of cream and near white south sea pearls. Perhaps they had that color all the time?
I'm actually thinking that they are not South Seas or they are -as you say Charlotta- cream colored since always. But like Bweaves mentions...some things may affect color too.

I assume they are south sea pearls as they range from 15 to 16.5mm
I have no certification. I bought this from an auction and they were sold as south seas.
The luster is not metallic, I have a strand of akoyas I can compare them to and the luster is softer. I'll try and include a photo.

It's hard to capture the colour but see pics below
The loose pearl with the red arrow has the worst yellowing, almost looking ochre and occurs over half the pearl with an irregular border. It did come from the strand but I had it removed when the strand was restrung.
The light blue arrow shows a yellow demarcation with a purple patch in the middle (almost like an old bruise). I've not seen "orient" like that before. But to be honest, I haven't seen that many south sea pearls xD

The black arrow shows the general colour of the pearls in the strand. Its a bit yellow, its not white.
The purple arrow shows some opaque lines which I think are natural defects, though unsure if they occur with age/ drying of the nacre as well.

The other south sea pearls I have seen have always been really white. (Willie Creek and Paspaley).


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Those are definitively SSPs...and they look like Indonesian to me, due to the quality seen here. By the way: good photos! You have captured the defects and skin traits quite well :)
That "marking" is -I believe, but would need closer inspection- is a line of sub-superficial protein deposits, and these are usually brownish in color and the colors may become even darker with dehydration or interaction with chemicals. If these lines cross with the drill-hole, it will be easier for a loss of water and chemical interactions.
Thank you for the help!

I'm interested to know, are Indonesian pearls then considered "lower" quality?
Not per sei...but there are many smaller farms and some have been known to produce lower quality pearls and may have less "control" on their production, so these end up being sold all over. I still remember a white SSP necklace I was able to inspect at a "Diamonds International" store in the Caribbean back in 2004 or 2005...OMG, a total drek! Junk...pearls all thinly coated, 50% of the pearls were cracked and this was quality you simply never see coming out of Australia. The vendor first told me it came from Australia but later conceded that it was from Indonesia (but for all I know, he was making all up!) since I would stop every day at the store and look at it (he thought I was a potential buyer).
Many times later I had a chance to inspect other Indonesian pearls at trade shows and you could find stunning pearls and lower grade pearls (never as close to that drek!) but it makes sense that having many small producers could potentially create a quality control issue for a country, but not necessarily to a given producer such as Atlas, who are top-notch producers.