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What is natural color of South Sea pearl?

South Sea pearls are some of the most beautiful and rare pearls in the world. They are cultivated in the warm waters of the South Seas near Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. South Sea pearls come in a range of naturally occurring colors that add to their beauty, value and mystique.

Introduction to South Sea Pearls

South Sea pearls are produced by Pinctada maxima oysters, which are large pearl oysters native to the waters around Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines. These oysters are bred specifically for cultivating pearls on pearl farms. South Sea pearls are the largest cultured pearls in the world, often measuring 13mm or more in diameter. This is due to the large size of the Pinctada maxima oyster.

South Sea pearls display a variety of naturally occurring colors. The color depends on the particular Pinctada maxima oyster and water conditions where it is cultivated. Their exotic colors and oversized proportions make South Sea pearls some of the most precious and sought-after pearls in the world.

Natural Color Range

South Sea pearls come naturally in three main color varieties:

  • White
  • Golden
  • Silver

Within these broad color categories, there is a wide range of overtones and gradations that add depth and uniqueness to each pearl. Here is an overview of the natural color varieties of South Sea pearls.

White South Sea Pearls

White is the most common natural color for South Sea pearls. They range from crisp, clean whites to creamy off-whites with a hint of yellow. The white color comes from the natural nacre produced by the oyster. Nacre is the luminous, layered substance that lines the interior of oyster shells. Thick, bright nacre results in whiter pearls.

White South Sea pearls can display various secondary overtones that add depth and character. Silver overtones result in a cooler, more luminous white. Rosy overtones lend a delicate blush tint. Greenish overtones create a pale pastel green halo. The combination of white with various overtones produces an amazing diversity within white South Sea pearls.

Golden South Sea Pearls

Golden South Sea pearls range from rich, warm honey tones to buttery shades reminiscent of their namesake. The golden color comes from the naturally occurring pigment of the pearl sac in golden pearl oysters. The depth of golden color depends on the concentration of pigment. South Sea pearls with deep golden hues are rare and highly valued.

Like white pearls, golden South Sea pearls may exhibit secondary color overtones. Rose overtones soften and enhance the golden glow with hints of pink. Green overtones lend a subtle lushness to the gold. The interplay between the primary golden color and secondary overtones creates amazing nuance and variety.

Silver South Sea Pearls

Silver South Sea pearls are prized for their cool, elegant tones. They range from icy grays to lavender-infused charcoal. The silver color also comes from the natural pigmentation of the pearl sac. A high concentration of pigment results in richer, darker silver shades.

Secondary overtones on silver pearls can include green, which adds vibrancy and depth to the gray. Rosy overtones introduce hints of feminine blush and warmth. The combination of dominant silver shades with subtle overtones infuses these pearls with a regal, sophisticated beauty.

Factors Affecting Color

The natural colors of South Sea pearls are influenced by several factors related to the specific oyster and growth conditions:

  • Genetics – The natural color of the oyster’s pearl sac determines the primary pearl color.
  • Health – A healthy oyster produces lustrous nacre which enhances pearl colors.
  • Nutrition – Proper nutrition maximizes nacre quality and natural pigments.
  • Environment – Water conditions affect the growth and colors of pearls.
  • Harvest Time – Longer cultivation produces more color saturation.

By carefully managing these factors, pearl farmers can nurture South Sea pearls that display the full natural beauty of their exotic colors.

Evaluating Color

When evaluating the color of South Sea pearls, several criteria are used:


The dominant or “bodycolor” refers to the overall primary color of the pearl. For South Sea pearls this will be white, golden or silver. Vibrant, rich bodycolors are most desirable.


The secondary “overtone” is the complementary color that overlays the bodycolor. Silver, green and rose are common overtones. Undertones may also be present.

Surface Luster

Luster describes the reflective surface quality of the pearl. High luster allows the true colors to shine. Pearls with poor luster appear dull and chalky.

Color Distribution

Color should be evenly distributed over the entire surface of the pearl. Concentrated spots or uneven color are less desirable.

By assessing these color factors, the inherent beauty and quality of each pearl can be determined. The most exceptional South Sea pearls display a harmonious combination of bodycolor, overtone, luster and distribution.

Rarity of Natural Colors

Natural color South Sea pearls are extremely rare and valuable. Only about 5-10% of cultivated South Sea pearls have natural color. The vast majority are treated to enhance or alter their color. Here are some facts about the rarity of natural color pearls:

  • Golden pearls make up less than 0.1% of annual production
  • Natural white pearls account for only 2% of output
  • Silver pearls occur less than 1% of the time
  • Perfectly matched strands of natural color pearls can sell for over $100,000
  • Unique or unusual natural colors are almost never matched again

This rarity and uniqueness adds to the allure and mystique of South Sea pearls. Natural golden, white and silver pearls are among the most precious pearl types in the world.

How Natural Color is Produced

The natural colors of South Sea pearls occur through a combination of factors related to the Pinctada maxima oyster and its environment:


The specific genotype of each individual oyster determines the type and amount of color pigments contained in its pearl sac. This genetic factor controls whether pearls are white, golden or silver.


The warm, nutrient-rich waters of the South Seas provide ideal conditions for Pinctada maxima oysters to produce thick lustrous nacre and color pigments. This environment maximizes color expression.

Health & Nutrition

Vigorous, healthy oysters fed nutritious diets have the energy to deposit optimal nacre and color pigments as pearls grow. Maximizing oyster health and nutrition brings out the best natural colors.

Cultivation Time

The longer a pearl is cultivated before harvesting, the more saturated and intense its natural color becomes. Two years is ideal for deep color development.

Through generations of experience, pearl farmers have learned how to harness these biological factors to produce astonishing natural color pearls.

Do Treatments Alter Color?

Since naturally colorful South Sea pearls are so rare, the vast majority of pearls are treated to enhance or alter their color. Common pearl treatments include:


Bleaching is used to turn dark pearls into whiter shades. This produces a more uniform “blank canvas” for dyeing.


Dyeing pearls is done to create or enhance colors like black, pink, blue, purple and more. dyed pearls mimic the look of natural colors.


Exposing pearls to radiation can alter their color. Irradiation can produce gray, blue and black hues.

These treatments produce beautiful results, but reduce value compared to untreated natural color pearls. Always ask if pearls have been treated.

Most Valuable Natural Colors

Due to their unparalleled rarity and beauty, these natural South Sea pearl colors are most valuable:

Color Description
Golden Deep, intense golden hues. Rose or green secondary overtones.
Silver Rich charcoal, slate grays. Hints of green or violet.
White Crisp, bright whites. Subtle rose or green overtones.
Pistachio Vivid light greens with yellow undertones.
Peacock Deep greens and blues with iridescent overtones.

These elite pearl colors demand premium prices and are highly coveted by collectors and jewelry connoisseurs.

How to Verify Natural Color

Since treatments are so prevalent, it is important to verify claims of natural pearl color. Some ways to help confirm natural color include:

  • Reputable independent gemological lab report
  • Significant premium price
  • Rarity of color matched strands
  • Consistent color throughout surface and drill holes
  • Documented harvest from a high-quality pearl farm

Insist on proof before purchasing expensive natural colored pearls. Third party verification and documentation helps avoid misrepresentation.


The natural colors of South Sea pearls occur in dazzling combinations of primary hues and secondary overtones. The rare golden, white and silver color varieties are most prized. Natural color results from genetics, environment, health and cultivation time. Treatments are used to alter most pearls. When buying expensive natural colored pearls, be sure to verify their authenticity with lab reports and documentation.

The breath-taking natural colors of South Sea pearls showcases the wonder of nature. There is nothing else quite like the shine, depth and palette of a perfect golden, silver or white South Sea pearl.