Pearl Colour Can Have Three Components
Bodycolour is the pearl’s dominant overall colour. Overtone is one or more translucent colours that lie over a pearl’s body colour. And orient is a shimmer of iridescent rainbow colours on or just below a pearl’s surface. All pearls display bodycolour, but only some show overtone, orient, or both.
Pearl Colour is a Big Factor in Grading Pearls
An important value factor to consider when grading pearls is both the overtone colour and body colour.
Pearl Colour Can Develop in Many Ways
Pearls come in a wide variety of colours, ranging from white all the way to black. Here again (as with many of the characteristics of pearls), the fact that the pearl is an organic gemstone, formed within a living creature, contributes to the myriad unique ways in which its colouration can develop.
The natural colour of a pearl results from a combination of several factors. The pearl’s body colour is its main colour. This can be white, silver, cream-coloured, gold, green, blue, or even black. The body colour is determined by the type of oyster or mussel that produces the pearl (certain types of oysters generally produce pearls of certain colours), as well as the conditions of the water, and sometimes the type of nucleus which is implanted to stimulate the pearl’s creation.
Overtones in Pearl Colour
Overtones are translucent colours, which sometimes appear on top of the pearl’s main body colour. These overtones tend to alter the bodycolour somewhat, as well as adding depth and glow. A pearl may be white with rose overtones, for example. Some pearls have no overtones at all.
The term orient refers to the shimmering, iridescent colours, which appear to move and glitter when the pearl is turned. This phenomenon is caused by the way in which light is reflected through the various thin layers of nacre, which make up the pearl.
New Pearl Colours Discovered for Freshwater Pearls
In the 1930s, freshwater pearls from Japan’s Lake Biwa introduced a wide variety of new colours to the pearl market colours which were previously unavailable in saltwater pearls. Today, Chinese freshwater pearl farmers have continued this trend with many fancy coloured pearls harvested in large numbers.