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Pearl Color
Pearl Price factors
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Saltwater pearls that are yellowish usually sell for less than those which are white and light pink. Golden South Sea pearls from Indonesia and the Philippines are an exception and can sell for as much as white South Sea pearls, provided the gold color is intense and natural.

Natural-color black pearls (they're actually gray) can sell
for as much as white pearls of the same size and quality, as long as they have overtone colors and are not just plain gray. The overtone colors, which are visible in the light-colored areas of black pearls, may be green, pink, blue or purple.

Pink overtones are desirable on white pearls and are visible in the dark areas of the pearl. Greenish or yellowish overtones tend to reduce the price of white pearls. Occasionally, iridescent rainbow-like colors are visible on pearls. Pearl iridescence is always considered a valuable quality.

The way in which color affects the pricing of freshwater pearls varies from one dealer to another. Often it has little or no effect. However, when comparing the prices of any pearls, try to compare pearls of the same type and color.

If you were buying Swiss cheese and you had a choice between some that was white and some that was slightly yellow or cream color, which would you choose? Most likely the cream color because the average person has been conditioned to expect Swiss cheese to have a yellowish tint. If when you bought Swiss cheese, you discovered that pieces with large holes often tasted better than those without, you might also develop a preference for Swiss cheese with big holes.

People's expectation of what pearls should look like have been conditioned in a similar manner. Many expect pearls to be white because that's what they are accustomed to seeing. In addition, pearls are associated with the moon, weddings and purity-which, in turn, are connected to the color white.

Within the jewelry trade, Akoya or Persian Gulf pearls with high luster were often found to have a pinkish tint. Consequently, many people developed a preference for pearls with a slight pink tint. To meet the demand for such pearls, producers have sometimes bleached their pearls and dyed them pink.

There are many factors to consider when choosing the color of pearls. The topic of color will also be addressed in the chapters on freshwater, black and South Sea pearls. The Akoya pearl is the main focus of this chapter.

Pearl color is complex. It's a combination of the following:

Body Color:    The predominant basic color of the pearl.

Overtone:   The one or more colors that overlie the body color. On black pearls these colors are usually easiest to see in the lighter areas of the pearl. On white pearls they are easier to see in the darker areas.

For example, lay some white pearls on something white, and look at them under a strong, direct light (midday sun is ideal but a light bulb will do). The outer rim area of the pearls, which is reflecting the white background, will be lighter than the center of the pearls if they are of decent quality (except for the bright reflection of the light). If you look closely, you should see a slight pink, green, blue and/or silver color in the central dark areas of the pearls. This is the overtone. Generally you will see more than one overtone color in a strand of pearls. You may also see more than one on the same pearl. some pearls have both pink and blue overtones.
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