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Classic and Elegant

Akoya pearls are cultured pearls produced by the saltwater Akoya oyster Pinctada fucata martensii. Akoya pearls are the most abundant type of saltwater pearl with the longest cultured history. Akoya are considered to be the classic cultured pearls used for pearl jewelry, with perfect round shapes, bright mirror-like luster and neutral colors, Akoya pearls are favored by most retailers and consumers as the classic pearl choice. Akoya pearl market developed at the beginning of XX century, thanks to Mikimoto who improved pearl farming and pearl industry that made pearls affordable to everyone.

Comparing to other types of pearls

While Freshwater mussels can produce many pearls at a time, Akoya pearl oysters rarely produce more than two pearls per harvest. The oysters are nucleated with a solid bead composed of mother-of-pearl and a small piece of mantle tissue. This bead becomes the nucleus of the pearl and is the reason Akoya pearls are more often perfectly round. This shape, combined with the high-luster found on top-quality Akoya pearls, and their relative rarity compared to freshwater pearls, give Akoya pearls a higher perceived value. 

Color, Shape and Size

The Akoya oyster is the smallest pearl-producing oyster, and for this reason Akoya pearls are quite small in size. An average Akoya pearl measures only 7 mm, while an average South Sea pearl is about 12 mm in size. Akoya pearls are currently being harvested in sizes from as small as 1 mm up to the extremely rare 10-11 mm. Akoya pearls have round shape, although every harvest produces a percentage of baroque and keshi pearls, with bright luster and shine common to the Akoya, but a shape and look reminiscent of a freshwater or baroque South Sea. Akoya pearls, when they aren't color-treated, have neutral colors and beautiful overtones. Most pearls are white to grey, with pink, ivory, or silver overtones. Occasionally, Akoya pearls are blue with silver and pink overtones, but these colors are extremely rare. Akoya pearls are never naturally black – black Akoya pearls have had a treatment with an organic dye. 

Where they come from

Akoya pearls are currently farmed in Japan (4 to 10 mm), China (small size Akoya pearls up to 7 mm) and to a lesser extent, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia. The vast majority of the world's akoya pearls  are produced in Japan, which is the undisputed akoya pearl producing center of the world. China was once a genuine contender, but mother nature all but destroyed the Chinese akoya industry in 2007.

How rare are they?

While the akoya pearl is considered to be more rare and valuable than the freshwater pearl, it is only the third most valuable commercially produced pearl, falling behind South Sea and Tahitians. It is still common to find top-quality akoya pearl strands retailing for more than $10,000, however. This would be average for a Tahitian strand and low for a South Sea, but much higher than a comparable freshwater pearl necklace. 

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