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One of the great innovations in perlculturing –pearl farming, a bit like fish-farming, has its own terminology– has been the introduction of non-white, non-cream cultured freshwater pearls. A generation ago most people would have automatically said a pearl had to be white or, possibly, cream. In fact, there has always been a bit more variety in pearls than that.
Today “novelty” pearls are big business. Freshwater pearl culturing operations are now producing literally tons of pearls in a wide variety of qualities and colors. Some of these colors are natural, some have been treated.
Interestingly some of the most beautiful “novelty colors” –colors that people assume must be treated– are often natural.
Freshwater pearls are NEVER naturally purple, red, black or brown. (Some saltwater pearls –primarily Tahitian Pearls can be black. And some incredibly rare and costly pearls produced by univalves –mainly Conchs– can be a beautiful flame pink or orange. These pearls are so rare that you will probably never see a matched pair let alone a strand. Instead they are used as the centerpieces of one-of-a-kind jewels.)
But cultured freshwater pearls can naturally be salmon, peach, blush or even slightly lavender.
Sadly most of the fancy colored pearls on the market that are naturally pink, peach or (slightly) lavender aren’t well marked and the retail buyer is left to wonder what color is natural. The ubiquity of some of the treated pearls –and the very “fake” appearance of some of the dyes– have mistakenly led many people to assume that if it isn’t white or cream it has been treated. In reality, it is hard to tell. Some fakes are easy to spot. For instance NO freshwater cultured pearl is naturally black, grey or peacock. If you want a cultured pearl with natural dark tones you will almost certainly have to buy cultured saltwater Tahitian pearls –or similar pearls from Fiji or the Philippines.
If you love pastel colors –peach, salmon, blush, even a lavender overtone– you will have loads of naturally colored cultured freshwater pearl options.
If you love darker hues and want a natural color you will probably have to buy cultured saltwater Tahitian Pearls.
And if you love yellow but don’t love the near mustard shades available in some dyed pearls you have a few other options as well.
But if you love pastels… if you love “overtones” –“overtones” are what we call the shimmer of color on a pearl with a more muted bodycolor, a lavender overtone on a white or cream pearl can be truly stunning– the world of cultured freshwater pearls has a near rainbow of naturally occurring colors.