Cultured Japanese Akoya pearls are one of the most famous types of cultured pearls, renowned for their round shapes and extremely high almost metallic luster and considered to be the classic cultured pearl.
Japanese Akoya pearls are saltwater bead nucleated cultured pearls produced in the Pinctada fucata martensii oyster, the smallest pearl producing oyster. The process starts when a nucleus with a tiny mantle tissue forms a round bead that is surgically inserted into the oyster. The oyster is then placed in the ocean for anywhere from 6 - 24 months where it starts secreting layers of nacre around the inserted bead. The longer an oyster is left in the ocean, the greater the chances of producing high quality nacre and a more valuable pearl. On the flip side, the longer an oyster is in the ocean, the greater the risk of the oyster dying or being damaged. Generally most Akoya pearls are harvested within 1 year, but the highest quality ones can be left in the ocean for up to 2 years. One of the standout features of Akoya pearls is the superb luster and colors that can form. Environmental conditions play a big part, with the cool ocean waters off the coasts of Japan allowing the pearls to form with highly uniform mineral crystals that result in high luster. A high quality Akoya pearl will exhibit a perfect mineral structure as well as thick nacre to create a beautiful and lustrous pearl.
What colors, shapes and sizes do they come in?
Japanese Akoya pearls naturally occur in hues of white, grey, blue, pink, rose, cream and silver. Common overtones are pink, green and silver and linked to the nacre structure of the pearl. The baroque varieties of Japanese Akoya pearls can rarely come in blue hues with pink and silver overtones. Treated (dyed) Akoya pearls can come in a variety of colors, the most common being golden and black.
Akoya pearls are famous for their inherently round shapes, and this is their most common shape. You can also find Akoya pearls in drop and baroque shapes.
Akoya pearls range in size from 2 mm up to 10 mm, with the bulk of production being in the 5 - 8 mm range. High quality Akoya pearls in sizes above 8 mm are relatively rare, hence the great value attached to them.
Rarity and Value
In recent times, Akoya pearls have been increasingly challenged by the improving quality and range of freshwater pearls. Yet Akoya’s still have a place today as the quintessential form of cultured pearls. The very highest quality Akoya pearls produced today like the ones used in Mikura are rare and hence highly valued. These top Akoya’s have the unique metallic type luster that is simply not found in freshwater or south sea pearls.
A Japanese Akoya simple necklace remains every woman’s classic accessory, allowing her to be chic, elegant or casual, all at once.