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Japanese Akoya Cultured Pearls

The classic pearl

The Japanese Akoya Pearl is the cultured saltwater pearl of the Akoya oyster, the Pinctada Fucata Martensii. The Akoya pearls were the first to be cultivated. The Akoya is considered the classic pearl with an nearly perfect round shape, a very intense shine and neutral colors.

Collar doble de perlas Akoya
Japanese Akoya Pearls Double Necklace

Akoya Pearls from Japan are the ideal option if you are looking for a classic pearl necklace, bracelet or earrings. They are very elegant pearls that, due to their not too large size, can be used both daily and at any event.

Until the late 1990s, Akoya pearls were the most popular pearls in the world. With the improvement in quality of freshwater pearls and their cheaper price, these were gaining ground, but even so today, Akoyas are the ideal option for anyone looking for more exclusive pearls with a unique shine.

A good Akoya pearl necklace is to jewelry what a good black bag is to clothing, a basic that can be used in countless situations and never goes out of style.

Discover all our designs with Akoya pearls here

How valuable are Akoya pearls?

Unlike the mussels that create freshwater pearls, Akoya pearl oysters rarely produce more than two pearls per harvest. Included in the oysters is a round mother-of-pearl core and a small piece of mantle tissue from a donor oyster. This small nucleus is the reason why Akoya pearls are often so round. This shape, combined with the high luster of high-quality Akoya pearls, and their relative scarcity compared to freshwater pearls, give Akoya pearls a higher value.

Compared to Australian or Tahiti, Akoya are the cheapest of these three saltwater pearls, due to their larger size and scarcity. However, as we commented in this other article, the value not only depends on the origin, the quality of the pearls in question also matters, so this is merely indicative.

Collares de Perlas Akoya Secret & You

At Secret & You, we only offer very high-quality Akoya pearls, hand-picked by our pearl expert. Because Akoyas are a more exclusive product per se, we believe it does not make sense to offer our customers lower quality Akoya pearls when they could instead purchase our excellent quality and value freshwater pearls that exceed in beauty to those other Akoya of inferior quality.

Sizes, shapes and colors

An interesting fact is that the Akoya Oyster “Pinctada Fucata Martensii” is the smallest oyster cultivated to produce pearls and therefore, the pearls obtained are not too large.
The average size of an Akoya pearl is only 7mm, while the average size of an Australian pearl is around 12mm. The sizes in which you can find Akoya pearls range from as little as one millimeter, to a few rare exceptions of 10-11mm.
Akoya pearls are mostly round, although each harvest produces a percentage of baroque and keshi pearls, which have the intense luster common to Akoya, but are irregular in shape and appearance.
Akoya pearls, unless dye-treated, are neutral colors and tones. Most pearls range in color from white to gray, with pink, green, or silver undertones. Silvery gray with blue or pink undertones occasionally appear, but these colors are extremely rare.
Black Akoya pearls can also be found, thanks to radiation treatment with cobalt-60 or with an organic dye. Although if you are looking for dark pearls, we recommend Tahiti pearls, which are the only naturally dark pearls.
Ostras de perla japonesa akoya

Pinctada Fucata Martensii, the Akoya pearl oyster from 1 month to 3 years, with Akoya pearls

Where do Akoya pearls come from?

Akoya pearls are currently cultivated in Japan, China 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 center of production of Akoya pearls and is therefore known as Japan cultured pearls. China was once a real power, but Typhoon Paboo destroyed much of China's Akoya industry in 2007.

Perla aponesa akoya en su concha

A little history of the Akoya Pearl

The history of Akoya pearls is, in short, the history of cultured pearls, since they were the first pearls that were managed to be cultivated at the beginning of the 20th century.
If there is a country and a person to whom we owe the invention and promotion of pearl farming, it is Japan and Kokichi Mikimoto .
Before Mikimoto, in China, they managed to cultivate the so-called Mabe pearls or half pearls, in freshwater mussels, so the first thing Mikimoto tried was to imitate that process, but with the saltwater Akoya oyster. He tried 1,000 oysters in 1890 and 5,000 in 1891, both experiments were unsuccessful. The problem? The cores he was using. So in 1893 he decided to use only mother-of-pearl nuclei. Mother of pearl is made of mother-of-pearl, which is the same substance that pearls are made of. This time the experiment was successful and Mikimoto succeeded in cultivating the first Akoya or Mabe Akoya half pearls.
However, Mikimoto did not stop there, his goal was to grow round pearls. After several experiments, in 1905 Mikimoto finally succeeded in placing the nucleus surrounded by some tissue from another donor mollusc, inside the oyster's body instead of in the mantle.

In 1908 he was granted a patent for the first and only method of cultivating round pearls in history.

Hilos de perlas Japonesas akoya

Strand of Akoya pearls with their characteristic mirror shine.

By 1916 Mikimoto was already cultivating Akoya pearls in a standardized way by opening several farms in different locations.

The success of the Mikimoto pearls was so great that they became a symbol of Japanese pride. However, outside of Japan, the world lived on the fringes of this discovery and continued to focus on the natural pearl trade. The big natural pearl dealers were not delighted with Mikimoto's discovery and even took it to court, since, according to them, it was an imitation as it was the result of human intervention. However, the resistance did not last long and in 1926 at the first international jewelry congress it was recognized and adopted the name "cultured pearl". Since then, all pearls produced with human intervention have been called this way.

In 1938 Mikimoto already had stores all over the world and had more than 350 farms that came to produce almost 10 million pearls per harvest. The popularity of pearls did not stop growing, but one event shook the industry and the entire world: World War II.

After World War II, a large part of the Mikimoto industry was devastated and production went from almost 10 million in the year 38 to barely 400. 000 in 1946. However, the American forces that occupied Japan began to show interest and requested that pearls be produced again, the condition being that they only be sold to the American Central Supply Office. Many of the American soldiers returned to the United States with Akoya pearl necklaces and the popularity of pearls grew again.

Mikimoto died in 1954 at the age of 96, according to himself, his longevity was aided by swallowing a pearl a day for much of his old age.

After his death, the industry continued to develop, reaching more than 4,500 farms in Japan in 1961.

Since 1961 until today, the industry has experienced many changes and the popularity of other types of pearls, such as freshwater pearls, has affected, however, Akoya pearls continue to be the quintessential medium-sized round pearl.

Other types of cultured pearls