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Color definitions of Keishi pearls

I recently saw a necklace made with “keishi pearls” and it was
lovely. I’m not a pearl connoisseur so have no concept what is the
difference between a “pearl” and a “Keishi pearl”. The ones I saw
appeared to be very deep grey and somewhat mottled - definitely a
fresh water pearl shape. Can someone enlighten me? I searched the
archives - all of them - and came up empty handed. I searched the
internet through Google and while I found some suppliers of keishi
pearls in various colors I ould find no definition of them. Thanks.



I sell and drill Tahitian Black Pearls. Keshi can be the premature
rejection (we tell the oysters it happens to all of them ) of the
graft for a Tahitian Pearl or may form when an additional irritant
makes its way into the Black Lipped oyster. I love Keshi, they come
in amazing colors, and all you have to do is polish them with a
chamois and they are gorgeous.

Ironically, I made currently (yesterday actually) made arrangements
to offer Tahitians wholesale to the Orchid group. I was going to
wait until I had some great photo’s on my website, but this is as
good of a time as any.

This is the link to the farm from which I get the pearls

Remember the best place to store your pearls is in the bathroom. The
humidity reminds them of home.


Hi Kay,

I'm not a pearl connoisseur so have no concept what is the
difference between a "pearl" and a "Keishi pearl". 

It’s “keshi” not “keishi”. A keshi pearl is a pearl but it’s
created in a very particular way. It is not cultured, per se; by
that I mean that it has not been manually nucleated. Instead it is a
byproduct of the culturing process.

In other words, a worker at a pearl farm nucleates an oyster which
then forms a pearl around that nucleus. That’s a cultured pearl.
But the very same oyster simultaneously and spontaneously forms a
second (or third or more) non-nucleated pearl as well. That’s a
keshi pearl. It’s chemically identical to any pearl except for the
lack of a nucleus, which is the reason for the typically irregular

Pearl sellers will usually claim that keshi pearls are natural as
opposed to cultured. In one sense they’re right but not according to
the GIA, if I remember correctly. The GIA considers them cultured
pearls because their existence was triggered by the culturing process
even though they were not nucleated.

Also, because they have no nucleus, they are all nacre and therefore
highly lustrous as a rule. For my money, there’s no strand of pearls
more beautiful than a strand of silver grey keshi pearls.


Keshi pearls are a natural byproduct of the saltwater culturing
process. Occasionally when a bead is inserted in a saltwater mollusc
to start a pearl the mollusc will spontaneously generate a secondary
pearl. These are known as keshi pearls. Most often they are a grey
tone, but they can also be off white and black (like Tahitian
pearls). They can be quite amazing pearls. I have sold quite a few
strands of very nice ones and find myself lusting after them
regularly when they are available.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140


Keshi are seed pearls (from the Japanese word "seed’) meaning that
they contain no nucleus. One might assume from this that keshi
pearls are natural rather than cultured pearls but, this is not
necessarily the case. Pearl nuclei are implanted with a small section
of mantle tissue from a host molusk. These bits of tissue often
stray and act as a catalyst in the formation of keshi. A majority of
Chinese freshwater pearls fit this definition, ie. no nucleus. They
are evaluated in exactly the same way any other pearl is judged. I
cover pearl grading in great detail in my book: Secrets Of The Gem
Trade, The Connoisseur’s Guide To Precious Gemstones, .

Gray Chinese freshwater pearls are invariable enhanced. The two
methods are dyeing and irradiation. The latter method makes use of a
simply xray machine. This has led to some surprises for folks who
send freshwater pearls through the mail. This method is stable and
non-reversable and the pearl will retain its original luster. Some
of the finest are the second harvest pearls, ie the second
implantation of the same molusk, these are often petal like in shape
and are called keshi to distinguish them from 1st harvest pearls.
Irradiated pearls can be quite beautiful but if it is gray to black
and it is freshwater, it is enhanced.


Many many thanks to Richard, Daniel, Will and Beth for all the
wonderful on “Keshi” pearls. Beth, thanks for correcting
me on the spelling. No wonder I couldn’t find much
After I read the correct spelling, I returned to the web and found
more than I had the first time. Interesting though, that
there are a lot of listings for “Keishi” as well, but not informative
sites, mostly just finished jewelry using Keshi pearls.

Amazing creations - I was fascinated with the process that produces
these Keshi. They are indeed lovely and I think I’ll have to do
some serious thinking about acquiring some of these. But not until I
have done some more reading and study in this direction. But they
have surely captured my attention.

Again, thanks to all. Orchid is truly a wonderful resource with
everyone so ready to share.