Akoya Pearl HistoryThe process of culturing pearls was discovered in the late nineteenth century by the British marine biologist William Saville-Kent. Tatsuhei Mise and Tokichi Nishikawa learned of Saville-Kent’s discoveries and brought the information home to Japan where they received a patent for their process. While entrepreneur Mikimoto Kokichi is often associated with Japan’s early pearl-culturing success, he was not involved in the initial discovery process. He married Nishikawa’s daughter, however, and became involved with Akoya pearl culture at the genesis of Japan’s pearl industry.
Japanese Akoya Pearls
Japanese Akoya pearls are cultivated in bivalve mollusks of the Pinctada genus—specifically Pinctada fucata and Pinctada chemnizti. Today’s producers often incorporate a process of hybridization to achieve the pearl size and luster associated with Japan’s Akoya pearls. During cultivation, according to the Cultured Pearl Association of America, “Only one pearl and maybe an accidental Keshi pearl is harvested from one oyster. This is one reason why sea pearls are usually higher price than freshwater pearls.” Employing the technique known simply as nucleus insertion, the technique discovered more than a hundred years ago by Saville-Kent, Japan has become the undisputed leader of the cultured Akoya pearl industry.
The Beauty of Akoya Pearls
Typical sizes of Akoya pearls fall into a range between 6-8 mm, but they may range anywhere between 2-10 mm. Japanese Akoya pearls are famous for their luster which is sometimes described as metallic. The most valuable Akoya pearls are large, highly lustrous, and perfectly round in shape. While usually white in appearance, Akoya pearls may exhibit overtones of pink, cream or silver. Their enchanting appearance is why they have become synonymous with classic Japanese pearls.