When Emma Stone shared photos of her engagement ring on social media, back in 2019, the jewellery world collectively sighed with delight. And Akoya pearls again made jewellery history. Her engagement ring, which was designed by Tokyo based jeweller Yoshinobu Kataoka, featured a single, white, gleaming cultured Akoya pearl, set in a surround of white diamonds. The simplicity of the design brought into focus the beauty and ethereal luminosity of the Akoya pearl. It also drew attention to the allure of cultured Akoya pearls and why they have a timeless appeal.
Akoya Pearl and Diamond Ring, Pearls of Joy
Akoya pearls are the quintessential cultured pearls. In fact, for most everyone, it is the image of a Akoya pearl that comes to mind when one thinks of cultured pearls- white, round, lustrous. Akoya pearls grow in the Pinctada Fucata oyster and were the first pearls to be cultured. More than a hundred years ago, in 1890, the first cultured pearl farm, set up to cultivate Akoya pearls, was established by Kokichi Mikimoto in Japan. After many rounds of trial and error, Mikimoto was finally able to cultivate an Akoya pearl at his pearl farm in 1893. A magnificent feat of science, technology and determination, that one pearl changed the world of jewellery forever.
However, it was not until 1916 that Mikimoto started mass-producing cultured pearls at his pearl farms and the cultured pearl industry came in to being. Soon after, cultured Akoya pearls started being used in fine jewellery. Today, Akoya pearls are cultivated in many countries, most notably Japan, Vietnam and China.
Diamond Dangle Akoya Pearl Earrings, Pearls of Joy
Akoya pearls are one of the most versatile of cultured pearls available today. Grown in saltwater pearl farms, they most often come in sizes ranging from 3mm to sometimes even 10 mm and are renowned for their perfectly round shapes. Akoya pearls are available in a variety of natural colours including white, golden and blue. In addition, colour treated black Akoya pearls are also very popular among jewellery connoisseurs.
Nevertheless, more than any other characteristic, Akoya pearls are most valued for their sharp, mirror-like lustre. Simply put, lustre is the intensity with which light is reflected off of the surface a pearl. A lustrous pearl appears to glow from within. This, therefore, is an important factor contributing to the overall value of a pearl – the sharper the lustre, the more valuable the pearl.
High quality Akoya pearls have unrivalled lustre - glossy and full of life - such that you can easily see crisp reflections on their surfaces. According to pearl expert and CEO of Pearls of Joy, Kevin Canning, “Akoya pearls are known around the world as having the highest quality luster of all pearl types. The luster is so sharp, shiny and reflective that Akoya pearls are often described as having ‘Mirror-sharp’ or ‘Ball-bearing’ luster.”
Akoya Pearl Necklace with Gold Clasp, Pearls of Joy
But there’s more to the stunning lustre of Akoya pearls than incandescence and finely detailed reflections. By catching and reflecting light so exceptionally, Akoya pearls add a soft glow to the skin of the wearer. When Coco Chanel had observed that “only pearls capture the light, illuminate the face and embellish it like an invisible layer of makeup,” she could very well have been talking about Akoya pearls.
According to the Gemological Association of America (GIA), many customers think of white or creamy white Akoya pearls as the classic item of jewellery, especially when worn as single-strand necklaces. An 18-inch necklace of graduated Akoya pearls is a jewellery box staple that can never go wrong.
Yet, Akoya pearls have much more to offer. Set in contemporary designs, these luminous sea-gems become true conversation starters. From fringe earrings and tassel necklaces to triple strand bracelets and Akoya pearl and diamond Toi et Moi rings (Ariana Grande showed us how that’s done), Akoya pearls look enchanting in any jewelled setting.
Akoya Pearl Stud Earrings, Pearls of Joy
The added aspect of different, but equally lovely, Akoya pearl colours gives jewellery wearers ample room to discover and define their personal style with Akoya pearls. White Akoya pearls with rosy-pink, silver or creamy overtones shimmering on their surfaces, are the embodiment of charm. Or why go for white pearls when you can have luminous gold or silvery azure blue? Black Akoya pearls, the very antithesis of mundane, are much sought-after for their inky-dark, edgy tones.
Akoya pearls are coveted by jewellery collectors for their radiant lustre, enchanting colours and their much-loved round shapes. Therefore, for all jewellery collectors, Akoya pearls are a classy and stylish must-have.
Featured Image: Hanadama Akoya Pearl Necklace, Pearls of Joy
Reema Farooqui is a jewellery writer who loves pearls and pearl jewellery. You can find her on her website The Culture of Pearls or on Instagram at @thecultureofpearls