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The Wide World of Pearls, Our 66th Issue: White Pearl Overtones Guide



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Guide to White Pearl Overtones


Guide to White Pearl Overtones

Each of the white pearl types (Japanese Akoya, Freshwater pearls from China and White South Sea pearls from Australia) have some form of pale coloring; never can a pearl just be described as "plain white".

The range of hues and shades of white is nearly endless, and depends on a combination of the primary white body color, tinged with a secondary color that appears to float over the surface of the pearl - this is called the pearl's overtone. 

Overtones for white pearls can generally be divided into three colors:

  • Rose (also called rosé)
  • Silver
  • Cream

However, each pearl type displays its overtones in a unique, distinct way. This quick Guide to White Pearl Overtones will walk you through all three types and their overtone variations. 

Akoya Pearls


White Akoya Pearl Overtones


Akoya Pearl Overtones

Akoya pearls will feature a white body color, either warm or cool toned. The overtones laid over the principal body color are usually fairly pronounced, but can vary in intensity. 

Rose Overtones

White Pearl Overtones: Rose Akoya


Rose overtones are the most popular and traditional of all three variations. Rose is best described as a very pale to deep pink color laid over either a warm or cool body color. Rose is the most popular as it is considered the most complimentary to women of all complexions, and adds a nice touch of color complexity and depth to the pearls.

Rose overtones can be paired with either yellow or white gold clasps and mountings, depending on the effect you want to have. Yellow gold enhances the pearl's warmth and sparkle; white gold will help enhance undertones of blue or green and give the pearls a cooler appearance.

Silver Overtones


White Pearl Overtones: Silver Akoya Pearls


The silver overtone is best described as a bright white - as close to a plain white as it's possible to get. Usually silver overtones feature an under tinge of blue to green that helps cool down the overall tone of the pearl. It is popular because it looks closest to what most shoppers envision when they’re thinking about a white pearl necklace.

The silver overtone looks best on women with tan or Mediterranean complexions, due to the contrast of the whiteness of the pearls against the darker skin tones. This helps the pearls optically magnify and appear larger and brighter than they actually are.

Silver overtones can be easily and beautifully paired with either white or yellow gold mountings. White gold will help enhance the cooler tones of the pearls, and yellow gold will add depth and warmth.

Cream Overtones


White Pearl Overtones: Cream Akoya Pearls


Cream overtones are the third most popular overtone and looks like a pale yellowish tinge and gives the pearls a classic, vintage look. The cream overtone pairs best with women who have pinker complexions, blondes, older women and red heads, as this vintage-looking overtone won’t clash with these hues.

It is generally recommended to pair cream overtone pearls with yellow gold clasps, chains and mountings as the warmth of the gold will compliment and enhance the warmth of the pearls. White gold pairings can tend to be a bit incongruous, however with the right cream overtone (something pastel, not "too" deep of a cream) the effect can be quite striking.

Freshwater Pearl Overtones

White Pearl Overtones: White Freshwater Pearls



Similar to Akoya pearls, Freshwater pearls come in shades of rose, silver and cream, although cream is by far the most prevalent. 

Rose Overtones


White Pearl Overtones: Rose Freshwater Pearls


The rose overtones of Freshwater pearls aren't quite as intensely colored as that of the Akoya, but still noticeably pink in hue. These colors are usually a pastel tinge, and hardly ever approach an actual pink color. These are usually a combination of rose and cream, so the vast majority of rose-overtoned Freshwater pearls are pretty warm in tone. 

Rose overtones are likewise very popular (the second most popular overtone) as the warm hues are flattering to nearly every complexion. 

Pair with yellow gold to enhance the pink colors, the warmth and depth of the pearls ... or go for white gold to cool down the pearls, but beware of clashing. 

Silver Overtones


White Pearl Overtones: Silver Freshwater Pearls


Silver Freshwater pearls are the most popular, and come closest to a true, bright white color although many of them are still tinged warm by the body color of the pearls. 

Silver is a "cool" overtone, but doesn't usually capture the blue and green undertones as strongly as the saltwater Akoya pearls do. Silver Freshwater pearls work well for most complexions, although women with tan skin (or who tan easily), and yellow or olive undertones wear these pearls best. 

Pair silver Freshwater pearls with white gold clasps, chains and mountings to enhance their cool, bright white tones. You can also mount with yellow gold to add a touch of warmth and sparkle. 

Cream Overtones


White Pearl Overtones: Cream Freshwater Pearls


Cream Freshwater pearl overtones are BY FAR the most prevalent out of each harvest. You'll see cream Freshwater pearls much more often than rose or silver. 

These warm overtones work nicely on women with warm complexions - those with pink to red undertones, redheads and older women with grey or silver hair. There's just something about the delicate warmth of this overtone that lends itself to being easily worn with "difficult" complexions and does not clash. That said, anyone can wear a cream overtone and pull it off beautifully. 

We highly recommend pairing cream Freshwater pearl overtones with yellow gold to enhance the depth and the sparkle of the pearls, although white gold can be a striking and interesting choice.

White South Sea Pearl Overtones

White South Sea Pearl Overtones

White South Sea pearls are not treated or enhanced in any way after harvest; these pearls' colors are 100% natural and beautiful on their own. Silver is the most prevalent within each harvest, and rose is the most rare. 

Rose Overtones

White Pearl Overtones: Rose White South Sea Pearls


White South Sea pearls with a rose overtone are the most rare ... and the most sought after. Rose overtones are usually a tint of pastel color, and are almost never seen as deeply colored as Akoya pearls can be. Usually a combination of rose and silver, the majority of rose overtone White South Sea pearls will be cool in tone. 

The iridescence and color complexity of rose overtones are highly popular and almost considered collector's items. Anyone can wear a scintillating rose overtone, although the best candidates will be women with tans or who easily tan, or who have yellow or olive undertones as the white body color of these pearls is usually a cool white in tone. 

White gold is usually recommended to pair with White South Sea pearls, as this enhances the subtle blues and greens playing underneath the pink secondary hue. Pair with yellow gold to enhance the warmth of the pink overtone.  

Silver Overtones


White Pearl Overtones: Silver White South Sea Pearls


The silver overtone of White South Sea pearls is by far the most prevalent ... and popular. Silver is usually described as a cool white shimmer over the white body color of the pearls, enhancing their cool tones. 

Because silver is either a neutral white or a decidedly cool tone, these White South Sea pearls are usually worn best by women with cooler undertones ... yes, that means women with darker or tan complexions, or those with yellow or olive undertones.

White gold is almost always recommended to pair with White South Sea pearls, as this enhances the subtle blues and greens. Pair with yellow gold to play with contrasting colors.  

Cream Overtones


White Pearl Overtones: Cream White South Sea Pearls


The cream undertone is the unsung hero of White South Sea pearls ... usually, cream occurs with a warm white body color, but this isn't always the case and can make for some VERY interesting color combinations!

Cream is a warm, faint tinge of vanilla, again usually overlaid a warmer white body color. This effect is a classic, vintage look ... go a little bit deeper in tone, and you can end up with a Champaign color which flashes with bright pink and purple colors. Blondes, redheads, women with pink to red undertones in their skin and older women with grey to silver hair look best in cream overtones. 

Yellow gold is usually recommended to pair with cream-colored White South Sea pearls, as this enhances the warmth of the vanilla tinge of the pearls, and may bring out additional colors like pink. White gold is also an option, but beware of clashing with the warm tones!


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