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Why Do Pearls Turn Yellow?

Your Grandma has Yellow Pearls!

It’s true! Just look inside her Jewelry Chest and you’ll see!

What used to be a lovely White Pearl Necklace is now a Nasty Yellow, Smoke-Colored, Stained Pearl Necklace!

What happened to her Beautiful White Pearls? Why do Pearls turn Yellow in Color? Are they Real Pearls? Or are her Pearls Fake?

Let’s Find out…

Pearls are Organic

First off, Pearls are Organic Creatures of Nature. They are Grown, Nurtured, and Mature in Water. A Seed or Irritant is injected into the Oyster and the Oyster reacts and covers that Debris with a layer of Nacre (What Pearls are made of). Over time, that Nacre gets Bigger and Thicker as the layers build up and form a beautiful looking Pearl.

The funny thing is, the whole Life and Growth of a Genuine Pearl, is also the same thing that Dooms it!

Pearls Absorb Oil

You see, Pearls Soak up Oils and Liquids that it comes in contact with. The Oils from your Body actually Absorb into the Outer Shell of the Pearl, Moisturizing them, and keeping them Shiny, Bright and Lustrous!

The problem comes when it can’t Absorb Oils anymore. When Pearls are Stored in a Jewelry Box or Jewelry Chest for ages, like your Grandmother’s, the Pearls actually Dry out.

It doesn’t matter in the least if you Roll your Pearls up to Protect them either. Rolling them up Nice and Neat actually causes them to Dry out Faster! But, it’s not the Protection or Padding that’s Killing them… It’s just the lack of Oils!

Oils are Life for Pearls!

Wrapped up for 20 years in a Jewelry Box does nothing but Dry out those Lovely Little Pearls. It causes them to turn a Dingy, Dirty, Smokey, Yellow-Shade! And once those Pearls turn Yellow, they will never look White again! (Note: There are actual Pearls that ARE Yellow in Color, made by Nature. But that Yellow is more like a Cream-Color Yellow and not a Nasty Smoke Colored Yellow!)

It literally looks like the Pearls are Stained! Sadly, they’re just forgotten! And who knows when the Necklace has been worn last?

Pearls also become Brittle

Not only will the Pearls turn an Ugly Yellow Color, but the Nacre or Outer Shell can become Brittle and literally start to Chip off and Break around the Holes. Look at where the String runs through the Pearls, you’ll see little Chips and Chunks taken out of them. It’s just Drying up and Dying, the Crust is Breaking off!

Yellow Pearls are Fake?

Some people bring their Grandmother’s Pearl Necklace in saying “I thought these Pearls were Real!

People are under the impression that Real Pearls don’t Turn Colors. “If they Turn Colors, they must be Fake or Synthetic.” Wrong! That’s farthest from the truth. Those Pearls are Real… Fake or Synthetic Necklaces won’t turn Colors!

The only way to keep Real Pearls from Aging, Drying out and turning Colors, is to wear them!

Wear your Pearls

Wear them at least once a month. The Pearls will Soak up the Oils from your Neck and it will keep them looking Bright and Lustrous. The Nacre will stay Shiny and Iridescent. The Pearls will look Brand New Forever… As long as you remember to wear them!

Pearls are like Muscles. Use them or lose them! Pearls are meant to be worn, not Sheltered or Preserved! If you don’t want your Pearls to look like Yellow Plastic Beads, then put them on and wear them.

Recommended Jewelry Supplies:

Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner Jewelry Steam Cleaner Complete Jewelry Cleaner Kit Diamond Dazzle Stick
Gold Silver Jewelry Polishing Cloths Jewelry Making Supplies Kit Gold Acid Test Kit Watch Tool Repair Kit
Ring Adjusters EMT Emergency Ring Cutter 10x Jewelers Loupe Jewelers Microscope

Recommended Jewelry Supplies:

Ultrasonic Jewelry Cleaner Jewelry Steam Cleaner
Complete Jewelry Cleaner Kit Diamond Dazzle Stick
Gold Silver Jewelry Polishing Cloths Jewelry Making Supplies Kit
Gold Acid Test Kit Watch Tool Repair Kit
Ring Adjusters EMT Emergency Ring Cutter
10x Jewelers Loupe Jewelers Microscope


  1. I have a Tahitian pearl that, after being worn almost constantly for years, is turning from grey into a much lighter colour, beige in parts, greenish in others. It is not true that wearing pearls keep them from changing colours. They absorb body oils.

    • Hi Therese. Good Point. The Outer Nacre of the Pearl will eventually Wear away and could Change the Color of the Pearl. The Thickness of the Nacre (Quality) will Determine how long the Pearl will Last. The Color Change that I’m talking about in this Post, isn’t due to normal Wear and Tear, it’s actually the Pearl Drying out and Yellowing in Tone. That’s Totally Different then the Actual Pearl Physically Wearing away. Sorry for any Confusion, but YES, you do make a very Good Point. :) Thanks Much! -Richard

  2. Michele Renee Russell // September 8, 2016 at 12:27 pm // Reply

    Thank you for that information I am searching for a set of pearls that were my girlfriend and they’re from Japan and they are very much a golden yellow but they have a dark stain right where the string goes through on every Pearl they’re very old are they worth anything?

  3. I’ve worn my black Tahitian pearl necklace for over 10 years (never taking it off) and it has changed (lightened) its color. It now has a tan color (circle) running in the middle of it and appears two-toned (black and tan). Apparently they do change in appearance over time.

  4. hazel cuthill // June 23, 2017 at 2:27 pm // Reply

    A jeweller told me my grandmothers pearls are synthetic. Thing is he did not test them, just looked at them. When I inherited them they were a slightly off white colour. I have never worn them as the clasp needs mending therefore lay in a dark jewellery box for about 12 years, Now they are more yellowy in colour and I still like them. Do fake pearls yellow?

    • Hi Hazel. Yes, synthetic or imitation pearls can yellow as well, depending on what the pearl is made of. If they use a pearlescent material, dyed nacreous portion, or mollusc shell, then that reacts the same way a real pearl with nacre will, tarnish and turn colors over time.

  5. Can’t you just soak the pearls in oil to get them back to their original color.

  6. Why is my old round pearl changing its shape?

  7. Denise K Fiedler // June 10, 2019 at 10:39 am // Reply

    Opalescent ?? I inherited a pearl necklace but they look fake.

  8. Mary Muirhead // November 14, 2022 at 7:03 am // Reply

    I have had a blue Pearl for 30+ years I went to look at it and now it’s a yellow ish white does this happen or what’s going on.
    Regards Mary.

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