Edison pearl vs the world: undyed, dyed gold, dyed black, dyed metallic?


Well-known member
Dec 31, 2017
I have a person asking for advice regarding pearls, which is a good opportunity for me to remember what I've learned from the lovely experts on this forum and the CPAA course, especially dyed vs undyed. However, I came across a challenge? How exactly can you tell apart dyed edison and natural-color Tahitian/ South Sea? Real Metallic luster vs dyed metallic lusters?

From what I've known and seen, dyed pearls, especially the dyed blackish ones, tend to have some micro dark spots as the surface of the pearl is not smooth and colors can concentrate on the 'pores' (I'm not entirely sure if this is the right term for it sorry). In my opinion, looking at the reflection on the dyed pearl feels like looking at a low-resolution video. Also, I think good-quality dyed edison's overtone can look a bit "wrong" as it seems to float on the surface instead of coming from the inside, as pearl's body colors and overtones come from countless layers of nacre. Also freshwater pearls don't come with dark blackish body color.
(1st picture to last: 1. dyed freshies (non-nucleated) - 2. (probably) dyed nucleated "edison" pearls - 3. dyed nucleated "edison" pearls)
1. 104300119_3034340840125878_9149615396786714956_o.jpg
2. 83087098_3034391353454160_8855645822373537476_o.jpg
3. il_1140xN.1112438990_1vm6.jpg

And of course, there are some difficult cases. The first is dyed golden edison. I have only seen them on photos, and I could not see those "dark spots" that are typical on dark dyed pearls. Then there's metallic baroque edison pearls, which many vendors in Vietnam suspect that they were dyed instead of natural. I can argue that there are not many "metallic-dyed" edison on the market, it is hard to get those metallic luster right and the dyed surface can be spotted. However, the more I look at them, the harder it is to tell if they have been dyed or not, as the bands of colors especially on baroque ones are really random and seems to be "floating" on the surface like good-quality dyed edison. Also since the colors of those metallic ones tend to be lighter, maybe it will make it harder to tell the "dark spots"? Lastly, I found two pictures of edison pearls which confused the heck outta me as I cannot tell at all if they were dyed or not. One is a metallic black edison pearl someone bought from Pearl Paradise and a pair of highly lustrous golden edison pearl I found on Pearlescence's blog. Can you guys tell me if these were dyed or natural colors? Especially the dark ones, if it was undyed it will challenge everything I know about freshwater pearls which I wrote in the 2nd paragraph.
(1st picture to last: 4. dyed golden edison, 5. (?) golden edison from Pearlescence, 6. natural metallic pearls, 7. (probably natural) metallic chinese pearls, 8. (probably dyed) metallic rippled chinese pearl, 9. black metallic edison from PP, 10. dyed black edison, 11. dyed black edison )
4. il_794xN.1380938535_lexq.jpg
5. p-pair-of-butterscotch-yellow-ming-rounds-4109-300x278.jpg
6. isbl_1680x420.23030624_gq1pd1st.jpg
7. fresh3.jpg
8. il_794xN.2314888155_13e5.jpg
9. 316597-76a592071e57f329c11177f8e5d20c45.jpg
10. il_1140xN.1914271108_s6sa.jpg
11. il_794xN.2364077405_b94x.jpg

So overall my question is, how exactly do you tell Edison and South Sea pearls apart? How do you tell if that lustrous golden pearl is SS or dyed edison or natural edison (if they really come in gold)? How do you tell dyed metallic pearls from natural metallic ones, especially those with rippled surface and "pond slime" overtone (ex: Kasumi pearls).

Sorry if this post sounds like a big mess and I hope you guys find this helpful.
(ps: I accidentally attached the last image. I think they are mixed of dyed and natural?)


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Mostly, it's just experience having seen natural color vs. dyed pearls. Some dye jobs are just obvious. It would have to be a very good dye job for me to second guess myself. However, it can be difficult to tell in a photo if the dye job happens to be a good one. Then you need to see the pearl in person. Plus the problem of a photo showing the real thing, but you receive a different strand.

I would trust what I got from PP to be as described. If you have questions, ask PP directly. They will be very helpful.
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Cees, yes, I think you are correct about all these being dyed/color treated pearls, at least most of them.

I seem to recall that the conclusion about dyed vs natural color golden pearls is that only laboratory testing can confirm. Yes, some are clearly dyed, but certainly more easily identified in person compared to a photograph. Why it is so important to purchase from a trusted, knowledgable supplier.

The way color is dispersed on dyed pearls (more mottled with more colors) is usually quite different and often more intense than how natural color appears. The last photo is most likely all dyed pearls.

We can only learn so much from photos. The differences are subtle. There are no hard and fast rules, because every pearl is different.

There is nothing wrong with dyed pearls, only when it is not disclosed. A price being higher or lower can sometimes reflect whether the pearl is dyed or not. Cees, PP and Pearlescence are absolutely trusted sources when it comes to disclosures.

I wish you the best in educating your friend; perhaps she will consider taking the CPAA course, as there are discount codes making it available free. Right now the gem fairs and shows have been canceled, so it's difficult to find ways to see a variety of pearls in person.
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I have a big black Edison from the same lot as your photo #9 from PP. I acquired it from pkinnew’s collection. They were on a special sale at PP, but I can’t remember the exact date. Maybe 2012, or 2013? There were only a couple on sale and I missed out. They are dyed, but they were unusually large and unique for the time, and one of my favorite styles of large pendant on a long chain.


Thank you Pattye, sometimes I am wrong also :(
Jeg, when I look always at your pearl collection I am very impressed by your choice and designs.
I have a bit of a problem with Edison pearls. Accepted that they are grown in the same way as in oysters but in mussels one can say it is an Edison when the pearl(s) come from Grace Ltd or as they are now called Edison Pearls Ltd or Ming when they come from other Chinese pearl farmers which also grown bead nucluated pearls in mussels. The only question is still when is it an Edison or when is it a Ming pearl?
And then still when you are on the Hong Kong Fair it can me neither one of these two.
Only when you see the invoice of the buyer where he/she bought what and from Edison or another wholesaler you still have a limited answer of satisfaction, for an Edison Pearls invoice you are sure, but for a Ming still not. And which buyer is willing to show you that invoice? :)
Thanks Cees! I can’t say for sure other than it was originally from PP. I have never bothered to ask since I liked the style and it was unusual to see such a large freshwater at the time. So, it is a very large, dyed freshwater pearl. :D
Here are some other examples that I do know are Edison’s from Grace Pearl, 2014.
I think the dyed blacks are still easy to spot. They can be gorgeous and not at all inexpensive but only a total novice would mistake them for Tahitian. I agree that it's like the colour is just floating on top like petrol on water.

The gold ones , at least the last time I saw them, didn't look anything like GSS in that the colour was sort of flat and yellowish. But I'm sure that will improve over time.

The pendents that jeg posted are wonderful colours and not unusual for Edison or Ming type pearls. You get that weird colour shift happening depending on the angle. So describing a colour become ... pinky bronze purplish or golden pink green

And I take Cees point about the name. Edison has become the term that people recognise to mean large bead nucleated pearls . Like Kleenex or Xerox . That's why it's thrown around by everyone . You really have no idea as a buyer where they actually came from.
Personally I quite like the natural apricot-golden colour that you sometimes find on nucleated freshwaters, but it’s definitely not the same as SS gold. The dyed gold pearls I have seen are a uniformly ugly yellow. As Katbran says, the dyed black ones can be pretty in their own right - like Jeg’s one, and I think Baby Nurse has one from the same batch - but they don’t look like Tahitians.
There have been some truly astonishing Edisons on the market lately, like those in picture 5 above, and I think Cees has posted pics on instagram. If they keep improving at this rate, who knows what colours they will be able to produce in a few years’ time.