Akoya pearls are the classic and best-known variety of old 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 a premier selection.
Water temperature and mineral content will influence the quality of the pearl production. Cool to cold water produces best results. Akoya producing mollusks are found in ocean waters bordering certain areas of the eastern coast 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 offshore Japan. This natural phenomenon, together with the evolution of the Cultured Pearl production process since the early 1900s, has formed the basis of a multibillion dollar pearling industry.
The Akoya producing mollusk – the Pinctada Fucata Martensii –produces pearls between two and ten millimeters 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 six to eighteen months. Oftentimes, the longer the cultivation timeline, the higher the value of the pearl.
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. That the outcome of years of patient cultivation should yield a productive harvest is often a wonder.
Once the pearls are recovered, the lengthy and highly skilled process of hand sorting, grading and valuing the pearls for market sale begins. Valuation of the pearl considers natural luster, surface smoothness, size and degree of roundness. While color is not an absolute in determining the value of Akoya Pearls, whiteness with pink undertone is considered to be highly valued for most cultures. In some cultures, the creamier tones are more complimentary to natural skin tone and therefore more desirable.