Let's take a look at the beautiful Akoya pearl, an incredible gem often considered the most "perfect" form of pearls. These gemstones have near-perfect rounds, bright reflective luster and neutral color variations. Because of their perfection, they are often used in classic pearl necklaces.
Akoya pearls are still considered the rarest and most valuable type of pearls, but in terms of economic value, they are ranked third after South Sea and Tahitian pearls.
Akoya pearls are cultured in this day and age. They are made through a complex and fascinating process as they are a cultured pearl with a nucleus. We'll explain this unusual process in detail later when we learn what makes Japanese Akoya pearls so special.
What are Akoya Pearls?
Akoya pearls are usually small in size and have excellent luster and perfect spherical shape. They are an excellent alternative to freshwater pearls, which is reflected in their higher price.
Akoya pearls are named after the Akoya pearl oyster known as pinctada fucata. Akoya pearls grow in brackish water bodies and are grown in Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam. However, the best Akoya pearls come from Japan.
Akoya pearls were the first cultured pearls in the 1920s, not surprisingly in Japan, by Mikimoto Kokichi. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Mikimoto has grown into a household name in luxury pearl jewelry. The cultivation of Akoya pearls sparked a revolution in the pearl industry, reducing prices and making pearls available to everyone for the first time.
Where do Akoya Pearls Come From?
The answer to where pearls come from varies by type. Almost 95% of Akoya pearl farming takes place in Japan. However, Akoya pearl farming is known to also take place in several other countries such as: China, Vietnam, South Korea and Australia.
What are Cultured Akoya Pearls?
Today, all Akoya pearls you can buy are cultured. Akoya pearls can take about a year and a half to be ready for harvest. However, less than 5% of the harvest can be considered gem quality. A freshwater mussel can contain up to 50 pearls at a time, while Akoya oysters typically only produce about 2 pearls at a time. They only nucleate once, unlike springy freshwater mussels that can nucleate several times.
Akoya oysters are the smallest of all pearl-producing mollusks. To stimulate pearl growth, trained technicians embed bead-like nuclei into oysters. The oyster's defense mechanism is triggered and the "stimulator" stimulates its nacre secretion. Only about 50% of Akoya oysters survive the nucleation process. Over time, oysters build up layer after layer of nacre on the beaded core, gradually forming pearls. The longer an oyster takes to make a pearl, the larger, shinier and more durable it becomes.
To form a perfect Akoya pearl, the conditions must be just right. This includes the water temperature and the pH balance of the water. Too much acidity or alkalinity can affect the nacre of a pearl. Therefore, Akoya pearls can only be cultivated in specific locations.
Colors and Shades of Akoya Pearl
Akoya pearls come in a variety of colors, with shades of cream, pink, green or silver, although the typical colors are white, gray or cream. Akoya pearls with rosy shades are usually the most sought after because of their beautiful flushed feminine look. You may sometimes come across blue Akoya pearls with sparkling silver and pink overtones, but these are very rare and quite expensive.
Black Akoya pearls are popular in the market, but it is important to note that these pearls have been dyed to obtain this color. The only naturally occurring black pearls are Tahitian pearls, all other black pearl varieties acquire their color artificially.
Akoya Pearl Shape
Because Akoya pearls are cultured with bead cores, they are almost always round or nearly round. This makes it easy to pair pearls to form a pearl chain or pearl bracelet. However, Akoya pearls also come in irregular baroque and semi-baroque shapes.
Currently, with the rising trend of wearing non-traditional and unique jewelry designs, these irregularly shaped Akoya pearls are popular to create modern and unique designs.
What are the Dimensions of Akoya Pearl?
Since Akoya oysters are the smallest pearl-producing organisms in the pearl culture world, Akoya pearls are generally smaller in size. They range from 2mm to about 11mm, with most between 6mm and 8mm. Akoya pearls are also usually farmed within 24 months, so the growth period is shorter.
Akoya Pearl Luster
Luster is one of the most important aspects to consider when buying pearl jewelry and is directly related to its value. The sheen we see is actually a manifestation of light, passing through the nacre and reflecting back to us.
Akoya pearls tend to have excellent luster compared to other pearl varieties, especially freshwater pearls. Their sheen is as sharp as a mirror. There are many reasons why Akoya pearls shine so well, including how fast and how the oysters secrete nacre, and the environmental conditions the oysters are exposed to. If you are looking for pearls with high luster and reflection, then Akoya is a good choice.
Akoya Pearl Value
High-quality Akoya pearls can be expensive, sometimes in the thousands of dollars. The price of Akoya jewelry also depends on the quality of the setting and workmanship.
Akoya pearls are the most affordable of the saltwater pearl varieties, but are considerably more expensive than freshwater pearls.
Why are Akoya Pearls So Expensive?
Akoya pearls are undoubtedly one of the most exquisite and visually appealing wonders of nature that can beautify human beings, so this amazing thing pays dearly for those who try to profit from the beauty of nature It's no surprise.
Another reason for the high price of Akoya pearls is the low productivity compared to the harvest of the pearls themselves. When picking Japanese Akoya pearls, only 20% of what is ultimately harvested is perfect for making jewelry. After grading and evaluating within this 20%, only 5-10% are considered high enough quality to be used. All of these factors come into play when determining the price of Akoya pearls.
How to Care for Akoya Pearls
Because pearls are very soft, they must be taken care of. One of the best things you can do for your pearls is to wear them regularly, as this keeps them hydrated and polished (from your body oils).
When cleaning pearls, always use a non-abrasive cloth, mild detergent, and warm water. Just make a foaming solution and wipe off any dirt and grime from the pearls with the cloth. Make sure not to submerge the pearls in water for long periods of time and rinse them off under running water. Soaking pearls can damage the string and nacre.
Also avoid any harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners as they can damage your pearls.
When storing pearls, avoid direct sunlight or warm environments and airtight containers or bags, as these can dry out the pearls and cause them to become brittle and lose their color. Put a damp cotton ball in the cloth bag with the pearls to make sure they retain moisture. Pearls are very soft and must be stored separately to avoid being scratched by other objects.