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Why are Black Pearls Black?

For centuries the black pearl has captivated pearl collectors and treasure hunters alike. And up until recently a strand of exotic black pearls could fetch $150,000+. Thankfully today consumers have several options if they wish to wear these mysterious gems.

Technically there are three types of black pearls:

  • Black Akoya Pearls (treated)
  • Black Freshwater Pearls (treated)
  • Black Tahitian Pearls* (naturally black)

 Black Tahitian Pearls are the only natural black pearl.

Are Black Pearls Real?

Within the pearl industry, the term "black" is used to describe any pearl with a dark body color. In reality a truly black body color just doesn't exist in world of pearls. Instead what we see are dark greens, blues, purples, silver, gray and the most coveted coloration "peacock".  

Below is a a small lot of very high quality Tahitian Pearls. Notice the range of colors, but no jet black pearls.

Green, blue, purple, cherry, teal, silver and more... All of these pearls could technically be referred to as "black pearls"

Are Black Pearls Expensive?

In general yes, black pearls are relatively rare and valuable, and thus expensive. They're only grown in one area of the world, and cultivating and harvesting them is a niche, specialized skill.

As little as 20 years ago, a fine strand of Tahitian pearls could cost upwards of $150,000+. Even today you could still spend $1000's for a pair of Tahitian pearl earrings in traditional retail.

However direct-to-consumer brands like Pearls Of Joy are importing pearls direct from French Polynesia and offering comparable pearls for a fraction of the price. With this business model fine grade black pearl necklaces are now within reach of the average consumer.

Black Pearl Price Range:

  • Dyed Black Freshwater Pearls: $50 - $1000
  • Dyed Black Akoya Pearls: $100 - $2000
  • Natural Color Black Tahitian Pearls: $250 - $30,000

The Perfect Strand of Black Pearls

Fine Black Tahitian Pearls

Exotic Black Pearls Without The 10x Markup?...

...Is it possible?

Our direct-to-consumer business model means the same quality as the big luxury brands, but a fraction of the cost.  

How Are Black Pearls Made?

Depending on the type of pearl, black pearls are either created using treatments(dyes, irradiation) or in the case of Tahitian pearls,the black-lipped Pinctada margaritifera is responsible for the mysterious dark coloration.  

Interestingly the color of pearl produced is influenced by the host oysters shell color. If the inside if the shell displays greens or blues, these colors are likely to show up in the pearl. However Mother Nature is still charge and there are no guarantees in pearl farming. Which is what makes the rarest colors so valuable.

Where Are Black Pearls From?

Black Freshwater(China) and black Akoya pearls(Japan) are produced with dyes and treatments. The real magic is taking place in French Polynesia with the production of Tahitian pearls. Not only are the colors natural and unique, but it's also a completely sustainable practice. Making these pearls the only "green" gemstone in the world.

Sustainable Tahitian Pearl Farming with Kamoka Pearl Farm

Black Tahitian Pearl Colors

black tahitian pearl colors
The exotic colors of the Black Tahitian Pearl

When culturing a Tahitian pearl, technicians insert a small square of donor mantle tissue with a mother of pearl shell bead. Mantle tissue will influence the pearl's color; depending on colors present in the shell of the donor mollusk. It may lead to shades of plum, green, blue, or gray depending on the tissue used. As well as body color black Tahitian pearls often exhibit strong overtones of green, red, aubergine or peacock. The end result is a pearl that boasts a dark body color and overtones that are only present in black Tahitian pearls.


What About Dyed Black Pearls: Akoya and Freshwater Pearls?

Jewelry technicians employ dyes or irradiation to transform light colored pearls into black pearls. One treatment involves an akoya or freshwater pearl that is dipped or soaked in a silver nitrate solution which darkens the pearl's nacre like a dye. Irradiation is also used; this process employs gamma rays that darken the nucleus of the pearl. While these processes are artificial they are considered permanent and often produce fantastic body colors many find appealing.

An example of ultra-colorful dyed freshwater pearls.

How To Tell Dyed vs. Natural Black Pearls?

Yes, but it isn't always easy... Treated pearls tend to be far more uniform in color than Tahitian pearls, which tend to show some natural variation.

Another clue is the drill hole of the pearl. When pearls are dyed, the color will naturally collect in this space and show slightly darker. Looking directly in the drill hole you may also see a darkened nucleus, but this can be hard spot on smaller pearls.

Picture of Black Pearls

strand of peacock tahitian pearls
author selecting fine black pearls
Selection of large fine quality loose Tahitian pearls
large green Tahitian pearls
very rare faceted black pearl

A Word of Caution Buying Black Pearls Online...

In the last few years we've witnessed a flood of online sellers selling selling dyed Freshwater pearls as Tahitian pearls. We've seen this on Ebay, Amazon and even big name websites. Reputable jewelers will disclose whether the pearl is a Tahitian or dyed Akoya or Freshwater pearl, but it's always best to do your own research to better understand exactly what it is you're purchasing.

Best Place To Buy Black Pearls

It should come as no surprise but our #1 recommended source for fine quality black pearls is Pearls of Joy. Since 2003 Pearls of Joy has been importing pearls direct from the source.

The Perfect Strand of Black Pearls

Fine Black Tahitian Pearls

Exotic Black Pearls Without The 10x Markup?...

...Is it possible?

Our direct-to-consumer business model means the same quality as the big luxury brands, but a fraction of the cost.  

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