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Pearlescent Pigments

Source Institutions

    Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

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Pearlescent Pigments

This is written as a display, but can easily be adapted to a hands-on activity. Learners observe and shake containers of shiny liquids. Inside the containers are mixtures of water and some small crystals, which are called pearlescent pigments. These pigments are used in the coloring of makeup, soaps, paints, inks, and plastics. Pearlescence ("pearl-like") comes from the simultaneous reflection, bending, and transmission of light. White light shining on the surface of the substance breaks into its component colors, like light through a prism, creating a variety of colors.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Exhibit


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Four 300-ml round flasks (with flat bottoms)
  • Four rubber stoppers to fit the flasks
  • Four small magnetic stirring bars
  • Three different colors of industrial pearlescent pigments (from Rona Corporation, EM Chemicals and Pigments, Five Skyline Drive, Hawthorne, NY 10532: Colorona® Copper, Timiron® MP-149 Diamond Cluster, and Timiron® MP-20 Fine Gold)
  • 200 ml Suave® Shampoo
  • other products that contain pearlescent pigments will also work
  • Water
  • One magnetic stirring plate (from general storage)
  • One 1-tbsp measuring spoon
  • Plexiglas display shield


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Solutions
    • Light and Optics
      • Reflection and Refraction


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, ©1997

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation