What are Akoya Cultured Pearls
Akoya pearls are saltwater cultured pearls named for the oyster in which they are grown – the Akoya oyster. They are known for being perfectly round in shape with a bright, mirror-like luster and are primarily grown in the seas of Japan. Akoya pearls are cultured, meaning their formation is the result of a pearl farmer intentionally introducing an irritant – often a shell bead or a piece of tissue – into an oyster. The irritant causes the oyster to produce a secretion which forms the layers of nacre that makes the pearl. (This is the same process for natural pearls, only the irritant finds its way into an oyster naturally.) Akoya was the first commercially successful pearl type.
Akoya Cultured Pearl Characteristics
Akoya cultured pearls were the first commercially successful pearls – mainly because of their consistent shape, size, color, and luster. They rarely have blemishes. That is why they are the most commonly used pearls for pearl strands and earrings.
Nearly all Akoya cultured pearls are perfectly round in shape. They tend to be smaller than South Sea or Tahitian cultured pearls – with their average diameter ranging from two to 10 millimeters depending on how early they are harvested. Their coloring includes hues of rose, silver, white, cream, gold, and greyish blue. They have a brilliant luster thanks to the temperature of the saltwater in which they’re grown. This makes Akoya cultured pearls perfect for pearl strands because they can easily be matched to other cultured pearls thanks to their symmetry and uniform color/luster.
Akoya Cultured Pearl Value/Grading
So what are Akoya cultured pearls worth? As always, that depends on the quality of the pearl. Cultured pearls do not have a universal grading system, but many jewelers – including Borsheims – utilize the A – Handama grading system designed for Akoya cultured pearls to determine which pearls are the best quality.
In the A – Handama scale, the lowest designation is A, which is the lowest jewelry-grade pearl where the pearl has a lower luster, a thin nacre, and more than 25% of the surface showing defects.
The next designation is AA, where the surface of the pearl has a high luster, thick nacre, and is at least 75% free from any type of defect.
Akoya cultured pearls graded AAA are virtually flawless with a perfectly round shape, mirror-like luster, nacre thickness of .4mm or higher, and at least 95% free of defects.
The Akoya cultured pearls receiving the highest grades are designated as Hanadama. These pearls have a special certificate after they have passed rigorous testing by the Pearl Science Laboratory of Japan. To receive the designation of Hanadama, a pearl must have an extremely high luster, no visible inclusions, and nacre thickness of at least .4mm on each side for a total of .8mm total nacre.
If you want to know what kind of pearls are more expensive, you need to compare Akoya cultured pearls to other cultured pearls, including freshwater cultured pearls and other kinds of saltwater cultured pearls. Among saltwater cultured pearls, Akoya cultured pearls tend to be more affordable than both South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls because Akoya cultured pearls tend to be smaller. But when comparing Akoya cultured pearls to freshwater cultured pearls, Akoya cultured pearls are considered more valuable and more rare. Their relative size and quality is why Akoya cultured pearls are more expensive than freshwater cultured pearls.
Akoya Cultured Pearl Care
Like any type of pearls, whether freshwater cultured pearls or saltwater cultured pearls, Akoya cultured pearls are both resilient and meant to be worn while at the same time being delicate and requiring special care. Because pearls are organic gemstones, they’re especially vulnerable to acid, alkaline, humidity, and perspiration. The general rule of thumb provided by Borsheims’ jewelry experts is that pearls should be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off – ensuring they don’t come into contact with cosmetics, perfume, or hairspray. After wearing pearls, be sure to gently wipe them with a soft cloth. Should they become soiled with perfume or make-up, you may use very mild soapy water. Do not submerge your pearl strand in water as this may weaken the silken threads.
Above all, pearls are meant to be worn and enjoyed. Leaving them in a box or pouch for long periods of time may cause the pearls to dehydrate, so wear them frequently.
Akoya Cultured Pearl Jewelry
Because of their symmetry and beauty, Akoya cultured pearls are some of the most commonly used in the creation of gorgeous pearl strands and pearl earrings. A cultured pearl necklace comprised of Akoya cultured pearls is a classic for every woman. And as the birthstone for those born in the month of June, there are many beautiful options for pearl jewelry. From strands of pearls to pearl pendants, from pearl bracelets and earrings to pearl rings and brooches, Borsheims has a vast array of pearl jewelry for all tastes and all budgets.