Color and Luster


A color is made up of three characteristics: Bodycolor, Overtone, and Orient.

  • Bodycolor is the dominant color of the pearl. It is influenced by the type of mollusk, the color of the mantle tissue implant, and water condition. Akoya cultured pearls are usually white or cream. However, Freshwater and Tahitian cultured pearls have a wider range of color choices including purple, brown, pink, blue, orange and many other colors.
  • Overtone is the colors that appear over the pearls body colors. The bodycolor still shows though however the overtone changes the color a little. Many pearls have one or more overtone color in shades of blue, green, or pink. However, not all pearls have an overtone.
  • Orient is the colors that shimmer on or just below the pearls surface. An orient is like a rainbow you see on a bubble. They are colors that are seen on the surface that move when the pearl is moved. Orient is created by the reflection of light over the different layers of nacre. Since every pearl has a different about of nacre and the layers that cover the pearl are all different, the orient changes depending on how the light hits a particular spot.

Hue, Tone, and Saturation are also taken into account when discussing pearl color just like in any picture or color. The intensity of a color and the shading all have an effect on the color and value of a pearl.

The value of a pearl is really depends on the owner and what they are looking for. Some people like soft colors and hues with no orient while others like a strong orient and overtone. It is ultimately depends on the type of jewelry and personal preference.


The shine and beauty of a pearl comes from luster. Luster is actually the most important value to a pearl and what makes them a magical gem of nature. It is caused by light traveling through the layers of nacre and reflecting back from deep within the pearl. This is what makes the pearl glow. A pearl with high luster is much more valuable then a pearl with little to no luster. A lustrous pearl will act like a mirror and reflect back while low luster will be dull and blurred.