The Color of South Sea Pearls
Today is Earth Day and our most valuable earth friendly gem, the pearl is a wonder of colors and luster. Why do pearls have different colors?
The color in cultured pearls has many sources. The organic pigment and water supply where a pearl is grown have significantly different levels of manganese, which impact the pearl's color. The species of the mollusk is the most important factor and the source of the mantle tissue that is implanted with the nucleus to start the growth of the nacre in the pearl sac.
In the Philippines and Indonesia are where the Golden South Sea Pearls are found. Their golden color is due to the gold lipped variety of the Pinctada Maxima oyster. The deepest gold color pearls are called 24Karat and are the most valuable.
In Fiji, the pearl is the Pinctada Margaritifera typica of which the mantle tissue produces earthy unusual colors. Justin Hunter's pearl farm in Savusavu has been producing natural colored cultured pearl since 1999. Justin started his farm as a Blue Economy project promoting sustainable farming of cultured pearls. On July 6, 2020, I wrote in more depth about Justin's Fiji pearls.
I visited his farm in 2018 and was treated to a couple of days of special tours and Fiji pearl knowledge. Justin's whole farming collective is built around educating his community about the ecological challenges of not only pearl farming, but cleaning up their Savusavu bay area.
I would love to go back. At that time, he was just building his spat collecting and hatchery. His story is one of many of pearl farmers connecting their business to the welfare and education of their communities.