Akoya Cultured Pearls
Akoya pearls are the classic and best-known variety of all cultured pearls. The roundness of the pearl and the depth and consistency of luster have positioned this pearl as the preferred choice in making a timeless statement of good taste in jewelry selection. When thinking of a simple pearl necklace as a bridal choice, or to accent that "little black dress", the Akoya pearl sets the standard as the premier choice.
Water temperature and mineral content will influence the quality of pearl production. Cool to cold water produces best results. While Akoya producing mollusks are found in ocean waters bordering certain areas of the eastern coasts of North and South America, the east coast of Africa, the Mediterranean and throughout the Indo-Pacific region, the vast majority of the Akoya producing mollusks are found off shore Japan.
This natural phenomenon, made famous by Kokichi Mikimoto who helped perfect modern-day pearl culturing techniques together with the evolution of the cultured pearl production process since the early 1900's, has formed the basis of a multi-billion dollar pearl industry. Successful pearling is the result of thoughtful planning, patient tending and nurturing of the producing mollusks and an enormous investment in time, money, science, and people.
The Akoya producing mollusk (the Pinctada fucata martensii) produces pearls between 2.0 and 9.0 mm in size. Each shell produces four to five pearls at a time with a nacre thickness of approximately 1/10 to 2/10 of a millimeter. The growing time for most Akoya pearls is from 6 to 18 months. A longer cultivation timeline can produce a higher valued pearl. The overtones of the average Akoya pearl range from pale cream to pinkish white, champagne, and silvery grey. These overtone hues, when properly matched to the completion of their owner, are what make pearl jewelry a unique statement of perfection and grace.
Once the pearls are recovered, the lengthy and highly skilled process of hand sorting, grading and valuing the pearls for market sale begins. Appraisal of the pearl considers natural luster, surface smoothness, size and degree of roughness. White color is not an absolute in determining the value of Akoya pearls, whiteness with pink undertones is considered to be highly valued.