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Why People Treasure Akoya Pearls

Why People Treasure Akoya Pearls

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Why People Treasure Akoya Pearls

While people widely adore freshwater pearls, akoya pearls by comparison command much higher attention and value. They are more round, more rare, less blemished and are closely associated with elegance. Here are some of the reasons why people treasure akoya pearls.

Special Qualities of Akoya Pearls

Part of what makes pearls in general special is they are the only gems that develop within living creatures, which are freshwater and saltware mollusks. Due to the decline of natural pearls, more affordable cultured pearls dominate the market supply.

Akoya pearls originate from saltwater oysters, in which only one or two bead nuclei can grow at a time. After an implantation process assisted by a human, the pearl grows for up to two years. Over this period it develops thick nacre layers. These beautiful white pearls are uniformly-shaped with stunningly precise roundness and little variation among them. Fine versions stand out with reflective luster that has a convex mirror-like shine.

Since akoya pearls are difficult to differentiate from one another, they are easy to match. In order for these pearls to maintain their shine, the owner must give them proper care. That means keeping them away from oils, smoke and various chemicals. They should be cleaned periodically with a damp soft cloth.

Historically, akoya pearls were the first perfectly round cultured pearls to appear on the jewelry market, starting in 1912. Cultured pearls revolutionized fine jewelry because the production opened the door to wider availability of rare gems. The pearl supply was previously limited mainly to royalty. By the 1920s the gems were widely worn by elite European women. They became popular in mainstream America following WWII when soldiers brought them home to their wives.

Over the past century white akoya pearls have grown enormously popular, partly from their link to celebrities such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess Diana. The gems, which symbolize innocence, purity, protection and peace, mainly come from Japan, China and Vietnam.

Highest Grades of Akoya Pearls

Only two types of pearls have higher value than akoya pearls, which are South Sea and Tahitian pearls. If you are going to invest in akoya pearls, why not choose the best? The only problem is there's no internationally agreed upon standard for grading these gems, but there are scales to choose.

One option is to use the Japanese Pearl Grading System, in which AAA is top quality followed by AA+, AA and A. The gems are graded by their shape, luster, surface quality, color, size and nacre thickness. Other pearl grading systems use different terminology.

Natural pearls of any type are more valuable than cultured counterparts. In order to get the lowest grade, a pearl would have to be covered with blemishes, lack roundness and not give off much luster. An AAA pearl, by contrast, is 95 percent blemish-free, has noticeable luster from a highly saturated color and is perfectly round.


The round symmetry and luster of akoya pearls makes them highly attractive jewels that convey elegance and sophistication. Contact us at Ralph Mueller & Associates for more information on akoya pearls and other beautiful jewelry worth buying and selling.