Let’s take a look at the beautiful Akoya pearl, an incredible gem that’s often thought of as the most “perfect” form of pearl. These gems form with an almost perfect round shape, bright and reflective luster and neutral variations of color. Due to their sheer perfection, they’re usually used for the classic pearl necklace.
Akoya pearls are farmed in today’s day and age. They are created through a complicated, yet fascinating process as they’re a bead-nucleated cultured pearl. We explain more about this unusual process later on, when we look at what makes Japanese Akoya pearls so special.
Fascinated by pearls? Keep reading…
Jump To a Section Below
- What Are Akoya Pearls?
- Where Do Akoya Pearls Come From?
- Akoya Pearls Quality And Grading
- Akoya Pearl Colors
- What Are Hanadama Akoya Pearls?
- Why Are Akoya Pearls So Expensive?
- What Is Special About Akoya Pearls?
- Where To Buy Akoya Pearls
- How Can I Tell If My Akoya Pearls Are Real?
- How To Clean Akoya Pearls
- Are Akoya Pearls Real Pearls?
What Are Akoya Pearls?
Akoya pearls are considered to be a cultured seawater pearl. Akoya’s are made by a small species of oyster called Pinctada Fucata Martensii, also known as the Akoya oyster. This particular species of marine bivalve mollusc belongs to the Pteriidae family, and is native to the Indo-Pacific region.
Because of the oysters’ small size, Akoya pearls are usually quite small by the time they are harvested. The oyster shell itself is usually only ever around 6 to 8cm in diameter. Due to this fact, it is incredibly rare to find Akoya pearls that are larger than around 10mm in size.
Where Do Akoya Pearls Come From?
The answer to where pearls come from differs depending on the type. Almost 95% of Akoya pearl farming occurs in Japan. However, Akoya pearl farming is known to happen in a few other countries too, such as: China, Vietnam, South Korea and Australia.
Akoya Pearls Quality And Grading
The grading scale used to define the parameters of the quality and value of Japanese Akoya pearls can be complex. But here are 6 standard, yet important things used to determine a high quality pearl:
This simply means, how much light is reflected in the pearl. A good quality Akoya pearl will have high luster, which means they will have a very reflective surface. In a lower-quality Akoya pearl, the reflected light comes across as blurry and not well defined.
The surface of a high-grade Akoya pearl is at least 95% clean. Even in a high grade pearl, it is normal to have slight inclusions or blemishes.
When an Akoya pearl has occurred naturally and is untreated then the general color scheme will be neutral, with natural hues. In the competitive jewelry market the preferred color tone is usually white with a hint of pink, ivory or silver. In very rare occasions, you can find Akoya pearls that are blue with hints of silver, but this is extremely uncommon.
Akoya are famous for their perfectly round shape. If you find ‘near-round’ or ‘off-round’ shaped Akoya pearls, it automatically means the quality is not great and therefore the value will be much less.
The depth of the nacre of the oyster has a direct effect on luster, durability, value and quality of the pearl. This means that Akoya pearls of larger diameter are sought after, due to the fact that they would have been created in a larger oyster and therefore have more luster from growing in a thicker lining of nacre.
As we have already discussed, The Akoya oyster itself is small in size. This results in an average Akoya measuring between 3.0 to 9.5mm. It is possible to find an Akoya pearl that is 9.5 to 10.0mm in size, but they are extremely rare. The most sought after size is between 7 and 8mm, this is because they can be edited, shaped and played with by jewellers to make all kinds of different jewelry.
Akoya Pearl Colors
The most common colors that Akoya pearls come in are white to grey, with pink, green, or silver overtones. They naturally occur in the neutral color scheme, but on a rare occasion, you may find Japanese Akoya pearls that are blue with silver and pink overtones.
What Are Hanadama Akoya Pearls?
Hanadama Pearls are the finest and most visually marvellous form of Akoya pearl. They are extremely fine and have been certified by the Pearl Science Laboratory of Japan (PSL). They are famous for their incredibly high luster, their thick layer of nacre and the lack of surface imperfections. They are a form of Akoya pearl, the only thing setting them apart from normal Akoya pearls would be their degree of fineness, luster and certification from the PSL.
Why Are Akoya Pearls So Expensive?
Akoya pearls are undoubtedly one of the finest and visually appealing natural wonders to grace the human population, so it’s no surprise that something this stunning has been hit with a large price tag from those trying to profit from nature’s beauty.
Another reason for the high price of Akoya pearls, is the production rate being low in comparison to the harvest of the pearls themselves. When harvesting Japanese Akoya pearls, only 20% of the final harvest is perfect enough to be used for jewelry. After grading and evaluation within that 20%, only 5 – 10% are considered high enough quality to be used. All of these factors come into play when the price of Akoya pearls is being decided.
What Is Special About Akoya Pearls?
As we mentioned in the beginning of the article, Akoya is a bead-nucleated cultured pearl. It takes incredible amounts of time and skill to create just one Akoya pearl. The process of creating a bead-nucleated pearl is complex, a bead usually refers to a piece of polished shell material that is derived from oysters. This perfectly round bead is surgically implanted into the reproductive organ of the Akoya oyster. A small piece of mantle tissue from a donor shell (another mollusc) is also then introduced. It helps the process to begin by its invasion into the shell, which is followed by the secretion of nacre around it. The oyster is then placed back into the water to grow for around one year to eighteen months.
This is a tricky, costly, and complicated specialised process and is one of the main reasons why Akoya pearls are special.
Where To Buy Akoya Pearls
There are scammers out there, so when buying Akoya pearls, please make sure you request an authentication certificate.
How Can I Tell If My Akoya Pearls Are Real?
One of the simplest and easiest ways to tell if your Akoya pearl is real or not is to do something called “the tooth test”. All you have to do is softly rub the pearl against your tooth. If the pearl is natural or cultured, the texture you will feel will be gritty and rough.
If the pearl is fake then it will feel smooth against your tooth. It is also very easy for specialists to tell whether pearls are real or not, using their equipment. So if you are in doubt, even after doing the tooth test, then take your pearls to a specialist.
How To Clean Akoya Pearls
Cleaning your pearls with a lint free cloth is the way to go. If necessary, wipe them down with a slightly damp soft cloth, then dry them again with a soft dry cloth. Remember not to get them too wet or submerged into water and to store them away from all other jewelry.
Are Akoya Pearls Real Pearls?
Yes, Japanese Akoya pearls are considered to be real pearls. Despite the fact that they are mostly farmed and implanted by humans, the process is still natural and the end result is still a beautiful and one of a kind pearl.
The prettiest pearls with a price tag to match, Japanese Akoya pearls are an investment that every pearl fanatic will love!