Black pearls are having a comeback, in the form of Chanel’s newest nail polish ‘black pearl’ and the ‘black pearl’ skincare regime that promises to shave 30 years off your age. This is because black pearls are a sultry and stylish alternative to their traditional white counterparts. There is something simple yet so beautiful about black pearl necklaces. Not over the top or too bling-y, they add just the right amount of decorative detail to suggest handcraft and sartorial love without being overkill.
From pearl connoisseurs to those who’ve never worn these beautiful gems before, black pearl necklaces, bracelets and earrings have a unique appeal for a wide variety of people. Read on as we explore everything you’ve ever wondered about black pearls, including their origins, value and symbolism. We’ll also provide some styling ideas for inspiration – dip your toes into the world of black pearl jewellery.
Everything you need to know about black pearls
Do black pearls occur naturally or are they dyed?
Almost all pearls on the market are cultured rather than naturally produced in nature. This simply means that they have been brought about through human intervention – either by a pearl farmer adding a piece of live tissue or a spherical bead into a mollusc for a pearl to form around – this is a natural and sustainable process. Entirely natural pearls are incredibly rare and not sold on the mass market.
However, in terms of colour, you can get naturally black pearls. Tahitian pearls, found in the warm oceans surrounding Tahiti in French Polynesia, are the only naturally occurring black pearls in the world. Formed in black lipped oysters known as Pinctada Margaritifera, their shell gives the pearls their dark colour, plus a multitude of magical reflections like blue, green, lavender, peacock blue, and even aubergine or bronze.
Black Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, are dyed black as they do not occur naturally. This often results in a deeper and more uniform colour that sets them apart from those used in natural black pearl jewellery, which are rarely one solid colour.
Are black pearls rare?
Second only to South Sea pearls, black Tahitian pearls are some of the rarest pearls in the world. This is because, unlike Freshwater pearls which are readily available in most countries, natural black pearls are much harder to source.
In fact, black lipped oysters are only found in a select few locations and each one produces just 1-2 pearls in its lifetime. In comparison, Freshwater molluscs can produce up to 120 pearls in their lifetime (30-50 on average). Plus, out of those harvested, only a handful will be of the quality required for jewellery making. As such, quality Tahitian pearls are very rare in comparison to their Freshwater counterparts.
Are black pearls valuable?
Due to their rarity and iridescent lustre, blemish-free black Tahitian pearls are highly prized. Their cultivation process is also painstaking and delicate, taking around 2-3 years to complete in total. Meanwhile, many Freshwater pearls can be harvested in half that time. As such, Tahitian black pearl necklaces are very valuable. Those sold cheaply as Tahitian pearls are likely low quality or potentially even illegal imports.
In extraordinary cases, Freshwater pearls that are rare in size, lustre and colour may cost more than your average Tahitian, but in general, they are much more affordable. As a result, black Freshwater pearls are better suited to a lower budget purchase.
What do black pearls mean?
Initially an outsider in comparison to classic white variants, black pearls are now a close second in terms of popularity. However, they still retain a sense of mystery and edginess – ideal for those who like more unconventional jewellery. As a result, black pearl jewellery can symbolise independence, strength, resilience and sensuality.
Historically, black pearls have also had several other meanings. In a Polynesian myth, they are linked to everlasting love due to an association with Oro – God of Peace and Fertility. In Chinese folklore, black pearls represent wisdom and knowledge, as legend tells how pearls formed in the brains of dragons – deemed wise creatures. And in ancient times, they were coined the “Pearl of Queens” and thought to bring wealth and prosperity, as black pearl jewellery was worn only by royalty.
When to wear black pearls
Black pearl jewellery is most commonly worn on an evening or for special occasions. However, thanks to their neutral base colour, black pearls are actually very versatile and the range of different overtones on offer mean there is a shade to suit any outfit.
For black-tie events, opt for a statement black pearl necklace with large, multi-tonal Tahitian pearls. Pair it with matching black pearl earrings, a form-fitting dress and heels to create a sultry finish. A quirky black pearl ring with diamond accents or vivid gems is another great way to add a hint of sparkle and elevate your outfit after dark.
For the daytime, it’s generally best to stick to smaller Freshwater pearls. Our leather chokers and lariats, pearl stud earrings and stacked black pearl bracelets, all provide a casual feel. Wear them with a relaxed cashmere jumper and skinny jeans in cooler weather. Or for the summer, go bohemian with layered necklaces and pearl hoop earrings.
Tip: Black pearls look great when worn next to sun-kissed skin. However, if you choose to wear them to the beach, make sure you don’t get them wet or sandy as this can damage both the pearls and the thread they are strung on.
Thinking of wearing your black pearl jewellery to the office? Our elegant black pearl pendants offer a subtle addition to any smart-casual work outfit. Meanwhile, pairing a full strand of black pearls with simple pearl hook earrings and a tailored suit will instantly add authority.