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The Wide World of Pearls, Our 100th Issue: Have my Akoya Pearls had any Kind of Treatments?



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You Asked ...

Every day we receive questions from customers all over the world about pearls. We decided to post our answers here for every one to read!


Have my akoya pearls had any kind of treatments?

We Answer:

There are a few pearl types that receive regular treatments and some that never receive any! 

Cultured Akoya pearls from Japan routinely receive a few different treatments that we'll discuss below.


Common Akoya Pearl Treatments 


Akoya Pearl Treatments

There are two common pearl treatments for Akoya pearls:
  • Bleaching and Pinking
  • Dyeing with Black Dye
The bleaching and pinking process takes a few months to complete, and is extremely common for Akoya pearls. 
In fact, it's so common, that this particular procedure isn't disclosed on pearl appraisals or gem reports! It's just considered Standard Operating Procedure, and is assumed to have been done. 

After harvest, most Akoya pearls (like 99% of them) feature some discoloration like greenish, yellowish, greyish or even brown-colored hues. As you might think, not the most attractive colors for pearls ... most people think of pearls as white! 
Gentle bleaching of pearls has been around since even before the advent of cultured pearls, and was done on natural pearls for centuries before modern pearl processing techniques! 


Bleaching Akoya Pearl Treatments


Bleaching Akoya Pearls 

Bleaching refers to the process of soaking pearls in jars filled with a gentle hydrogen peroxide solution. The pearls are then bombarded with UV light for a few days to a few weeks. This removes the natural green / grey / brown colors, clears up any spots on the pearls and gives the pearls a desirable white body color. 


Pinking Akoya Pearl Treatment


Pinking Akoya Pearl Treatments

After bleaching, the pearls are then soaked in different jars filled with a light pink dye for a number of weeks.
Pinking is the secondary process that returns some color and warmth back to the pearls. The photo above is courtesy of GIA.org

The pearl processing factories all have their own closely-guarded secret pinking "recipes" which can vary in intensity. The goal here is not to turn the white pearls pink, but to give them a classic rosé overtone that is more like a tinge of blush over the white bodycolor of the pearl. 

Both bleaching and pinking are gentle on the pearls and do not damage them for long-term wear, and are permanent treatments.


Black Dye Akoya Pearl Treatments



Black Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls that have grey spots on them that cannot be removed by bleaching them are typically slated for black dyeing treatments. 

This ensures the pearls remain marketable for the pearl farmer, although at a lesser price. Black Akoya pearls are very striking however, and we think an excellent option for both jewelry shoppers and pearl farmers alike!

Black Akoya pearls are dyed in large vats of concentrated black dye for days to weeks at a time. This is done after the pearls have been drilled for mounting which allows the coloring agent to fully penetrate all layers of nacre and thoroughly saturate the pearls with the dye. The result is a very stark, very dark color that is stable and permanent. 

Black Akoya pearls can range in color from jet black to blackish-blue or blackish-green. 

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