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The Akoya Pearl Buyer's Guide

Akoya Pearls 101: Buying Guide

The epitome of classic grace and style, the Akoya pearl is a staple for every woman's jewelry box. Join the experts at Pearls of Joy to learn how to buy these lustrous and timeless pearls like a pearl pro.
In this Guide, you'll find information on all aspects of the Akoya pearl ... from simple pearl basics to pearl farming, Akoya pearl grading and more. The Akoya Pearl Buyer's Guide touches on every relevant facet you should know about these precious gems before you buy.
The Table of Contents below can take you straight to any topic that interests you, or read the entire Guide at your leisure.

Akoya Pearl Basics

Akloya Pearlo Basics - What You Should Know About Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls are “The Classic” cultured pearl, this is the classic white pearl most people think of when they picture the perfect pearl necklace or pearl earrings.

Akoya Pearl Fact Sheet:

  • Small to Moderate Sizes: ranging from 3.0 mm to 9.5 mm, these pearls are appropriate for almost any age and occasion.
  • Perfectly Round Shapes: Akoya pearls are famous for their perfectly symmetrical and round shapes. Other shapes like baroques exist, but most beginning buyers are after the perfectly round pearls.
  • Perfect Matching:Akoya pearls have an incredible uniformity in matching … necklaces, earrings and bracelets are meticulously matched for body color, overtone, luster, size and surface quality.
  • “Mirror-Like” Luster:Akoya pearls are infamous for their bright, shiny luster that reflects light and objects with intensity and detail. The luster is also known as “ball-bearing” luster because the sharpness of its luster is reminiscent of a highly polished ball bearing.
  • Traditionally White Colors: the Akoya pearl offers many other color varieties other than white, but the most sought after pearl color is the traditional white hue, tinged with overtones of rose, silver and cream.
  • Saltwater Pearl Type: Akoya pearls are cultured in the pinctada fucata martensii saltwater pearl oyster - the smallest pearl bearing oyster in the world, native to Japan, China, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Akoya Pearl Value

Akoya pearls have a wide range of price points to accommodate nearly every budget and occasion. From a first-pearls present, to 30th anniversary gift, the classic grace of the Akoya pearl is unmistakable.

How Much Are Akoya Pearls Worth?

Akoya Pearl Jewelry Value Chart


Akoya Pearl Origins

Cultured Akoya pearls were first born in Japan around 1912. The “Father of Cultured Pearls” is Kokichi Mikimoto,the man responsible for bringing cultured Akoya pearls to the world.

Akoya Pearl Farm in Japan

The view from an Akoya pearl farm in Japan using floating bamboo rafts and hanging baskets to house the oysters for next year's harvests.

Today, the Akoya pearl is cultured on pearl farms located in Japan, China and Vietnam.

Japan is still known far and wide as the producer of the finest Akoya pearls in the world.

The cold waters of the Pacific Ocean are the Akoya oyster's special secret for how it creates its "mirror-like" luster. The colder temperatures of the water slow down the oyster's metabolism.This causes nacre secreted around the bead nucleus to get packed verytightly together in concentric layers. The moretightly packed these layers are, the brighter and sharper the pearl's luster.

China was a leading producer of smaller-sized Akoya pearls for many years.Chinese farmers focused on sizes ranging from 4 - 7mm, which couldbe harvested and brought to market morequickly than larger pearls. But that situation no longer holds true.After a series of devastating environmental disasters, most farmswere wiped out completely, never to return. Today, very few Akoya pearls are from China.

A smaller segment of the Akoya pearl farming community (but no less impressive) is Vietnam. The saltwater Akoya oysterpinctada fucata martensii, are native to the area and are bred to produce Akoya pearls in rich, unusual colors like blue, grey-blue, gold ... even pistachio green! And they are famous for pearls with very thick nacre, and a gorgeous glow.Vietnamese Akoya pearls are rare collector’s items, and these days can onlybe found at major pearl shows and auctions in Hong Kong.

Akoya versus Freshwater Pearls

Among pearl buyers and collectors, the debate rages: Freshwater pearls, or Akoya? Before taking the plunge, here are a few key differences between the two pearl types so you can make your purchase with confidence.

Akoya vs Freshwater Pearls - Which Pearls To Choose

Akoya pearls showing their trademark “Mirror-Like” luster, perfectly round shand excellently matched strands.

Akoya vs Freshwater Pearls - Which Pearls to Choose

Freshwater pearls displaying slightly off-round shapes, softer, more satiny luster and very well matched strands.

Akoya vs Freshwater Fact Sheet

Shape: Akoya pearls will be perfectly round in all pearl grades, while the vast majority of Freshwater pearls will be slightly off-round to oval and potato shaped.

Luster: Akoya pearls display very sharp and bright luster, even in some of the lower qualities. Freshwater pearls generally feature a softer, more “satiny” luster that tends to be visibly more diffuse around the edges of reflected light sources.

Sizes: Both Akoya and Freshwater pearls feature a very similar size range, but Akoya pearls max out at about 9.5 mm and rarely 9.5- 10.0 mm. Freshwater pearls can reach much larger sizes (especially the newer, bead nucleated varieties, like Edison pearls which regularly reach 15.0 – 16.0mm). For traditionally tissue-nucleated Freshwater pearls, fine quality necklace sizes can reach 11.0-12.0 mm and slightly larger.

Colors: Both pearl types are available in classic white body colors, with traditional overtones of rose, silver and cream. The majority of Freshwater pearls will have cream and rose overtones, and more Akoya pearls will showcase a silver or rose overtone.

Blemishes: Akoya pearl blemishes include subtle white “chalky” spots, flat spots, wrinkling in the nacre and tiny pin prick-like inclusions. Freshwater pearl blemishes are typified by white chalky spots, raised ridges, tiny pin prick patterns and small, streak-like score marks. Both pearl type’s blemishes are very small however, and should only be visible upon close inspection.

Prices: Akoya pearls are traditionally more expensive than Freshwater pearls, and are considered by most pearl buyers to be a “luxury” pearl type. There are a variety of factors that go into this pricing disparity, but the best rule of thumb when shopping for classic white pearl jewelry is that the Akoya will be anywhere from 20-50% more expensive.

The bottom line …

Choose Akoya pearls if you want a “luxury level” white pearl necklace with very bright, highly reflective luster, perfectly round pearls and perfect matching. The somewhat higher price is worth it if those are the pearl necklace features that you just cannot live without.

Choose Freshwater pearls if you are looking for an “entry level” white pearl necklace for a first-pearls purchase, or you want a necklace that can be worn daily without much worry about wear and tear. Freshwater pearl’s lower prices also make experimentation easy and fun – these pearls are perfect for wearing in layers, longer rope pearl necklaces and creating customized jewelry.

What Are Hanadama Akoya Pearls?

Imagine the highest quality, most lustrous Akoya pearls in the world the kind of pearls you can im. That’s exactly what Hanadama pearls are. Known for their dazzling bright luster, rainbow orient and Aurora effect, these are the only Akoya pearls in the world certified by the Pearl Science Laboratory of Tokyo.

What Are Hanadama Pearls?

Hanadama pearls are certified by the PSL of Japan to have the very highest levels of luster, orient and nacre thickness.

Stunning Hanadama Akoya Pearls

Check out that luster and rainbow orient!

Hanadama Pearls are the Most Lustrous of Allo Akoya Pearls

A handful of Hanadama treasures …

Hanadama Pearl Certificate Example

Sample Hanadama certification report that comes with every purchase. Each lab report is individually numbered and corresponds to that exact strand or matched pair of pearls for earrings.

Each Hanadama Akoya pearl necklace or pair of pearl earrings comes with its own numbered PSL Certification guaranteeing that these pearls reach the very highest levels of luster, orient and nacre thickness. Certificates specifically test for:

  • Luster(must exhibit "very strong" luster)
  • Nacre thickness(a min. of .8mm of total nacre)
  • Near flawless surface(only 1 "deep" inclusion per strand)
  • Orient/Aurora(a rainbow-like soap bubble effect on the surface of the pearl)

Browse Hanadama Akoya Pearls


Akoya Pearl Grading

Pearls of Joy uses theA – AAA Grading system to grade Akoya pearls. The "A" grade represents the lowest commercial grade. "AAA" grade pearls represent the highest pearl quality available.

The accordion below depicts each pearl grade and a detailed analysis of all grading criteria.

There are 7 “value factors” that jewelers use to assign a monetary value to cultured pearls. There are 5 major factors that comprise a pearl’s place on the A-AAA Grade.

Akoya Pearl Value Factors Are:

  • Shape
  • Surface Quality
  • Luster
  • Matching
  • Nacre Thickness

Hanadama Quality

Akoya Pearl Grading: Hanadama Quality

Shape: True Round, No Deviation from Perfectly Spherical Shape

Surface Quality: 95-99% Clean to the Eye. 1 Deep Inclusion Allowable for Full Strand.

Luster: Excellent / Mirror-Like. Detailed Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Matching: Near-Perfect to Perfect for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: Minimum of 0.4mm Deep on Each Side of Pearl

AAA Quality

Akoya Pearl Grading: AAA Quality

Shape: True Round, No Deviation from Perfectly Round Shape

Surface Quality: 95-99% Clean to the Eye. 1 Deep Inclusion Allowable for Full Strand.

Luster: Very High to Excellent / Mirror-Like. Mostly Detailed Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Matching: Near-Perfect to Perfect for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: Visibly Thick, No Blinking

AA+ Quality

Akoya Pearl Grading: AA+ Quality

Shape: True Round, No Deviation from Perfectly Round Shape

Surface Quality: 90-95% Clean to the Eye. 2-3 Deep Inclusions Allowable for Full Strand.

Luster: Very High / Almost Mirror-Like. Slightly Detailed Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Matching: Near-Perfect to Perfect for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: Visibly Thick, Very Little to No Blinking

AA Quality

AA Quality Akoya Pearl Example

Shape: True Round, No Deviation from Perfectly Round Shape

Surface Quality: 80-85% Clean to the Eye. Deep Inclusions Allowable for Full Strand, Pearls Will Appear Spotted Upon Easy Inspection.

Luster: Good / Blurry Reflections Visible in Surfaces

Matching: Good to Very Good Matching for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: Visibly Thin, Some Blinking Can Be Seen on Up-Close Viewing

A Quality

A Quality Akoya Pearl Example

Shape: True Round, No Deviation from Perfectly Round Shape

Surface Quality: 65-70% Clean to the Eye. Deep Inclusions Allowable for Full Strand, Pearls Will Appear Spotted Upon Easy Inspection.

Luster: Fair to Poor / Some Blurry Reflections Visible in Surfaces. Some Pearls Can Look “Chalky”

Matching: Good Matching for Size, Shape, Body Color, Overtone, Surface Quality and Luster

Nacre Thickness: Visibly Thin, Blinking Can Be Seen on Up-Close Viewing

Akoya Pearl Grading: Video Tutorial

Akoya Pearl Sizes

Akoya Pearl Sizes Compared to US Nickel

The Akoya pearl is one of the smaller-sized pearl types available, and is considered to be very versatile. Pearl sizes generally range from tiny 2.5-3.0mm seed pearls to a maximum of 9.5-10.0mm sizes, which are rare.

The most popular size range ranges from 6.0-6.5 mm up through 8.5-9.0mm, with many shoppers considering the 7.0-7.5mm size to be the “sweet spot” for necklaces and earrings for young women and adults.

📢 Read More: Pearl Size Guide


The Perfect Strand of Pearls

Fine Japanese Akoya Pearls

The perfect strand of pearls... Is it possible?

Perfectly round, beautifully matched, with a mirror like luster – Japanese Akoya pearls can’t be matched for quality and high-end appeal. This is the classic pearl necklace.  

Akoya Pearl Shapes

By now, we’re pretty sure you know that Akoya pearls are world-famous for their perfectly round shapes … in the pearl industry, farmers and wholesalers call them “eight way rollers” because they will smoothly roll around in all eight directions evenly and without wobbling.

Perfectly round pearls account for a small fraction of all Akoya pearls at harvest, and are more highly valued than other shapes.

Akoya Pearl Shapes: True Perfect Rounds

Check out those eight way rollers ... rows and rows of top quality Akoya pearls

Akoya pearls do come in other shapes too. One of the newest pearl crazes are baroque Akoya pearls, which feature heavily textured surfaces and unique, free-form shapes.

Once hardly ever seen in jewelry stores, baroque Akoya pearls are fast becoming a staple.With easier access to farmers and pearl producers overseas, jewelers and retailers can now bring these unique pearls to the world's jewelry markets for all to enjoy.
Customers who had never dreamed that pearls like these existed now have opportunities to own somethingtruly rare.


Watch: New Baroque Akoya Pearls From Japan

Akoya Pearl Colors

While Akoyas are known for that “Classic White” color, these pretty little pearls come in a wider range than ever imagined. Get ready to dive in to a world of color including shades of Blue, Blue-Green, Silver-Blue, shades of warm Gold and Yellow and even Pistachio … all of which are totally natural colors.

Black Akoya pearls are the results of a color-treatment process, typically dye.

The pearls display a very dark, black body color with hints of Midnight Blue and Green-Black overtones that are incredibly attractive, and extremely unif.

Most Common Akoya Pearl Colors are White, Black, Blue and Gold

A sampling of available Akoya pearl colors include White, Black, Blue and Gold.

Shimmering Natural Akoya Pearl Colors Up Close

A river of color to dazzle the eyes. These multi-color Akoya pearl necklaces were spotted at the Hong Kong Jewellery Show.

Natural Color Akoya Pearls Close Up

Another close-up shot. Feast your eyes on these totally natural, totally stunning colors.

White Akoya Pearl Overtones

Overtones are the term used to describe a second, transparent sheen of color that appears to float over the main body color of the pearl. Jewelers describe it like blush over a woman’s cheek.

There are three common overtones for the White Akoya pearl. These are rose, silver and cream.

Classic White Akoya Pearl Overtones are Rose, Cream and Silver

White Akoya Pearl Overtone FAQs

  • Rose overtones are the most popular and traditional of all. Rose originated with Mikimoto Pearls, who preferred the pastel pink iridescence. Itwas thought that rose was the most complimentary to females of all complexions.
  • Silver overtones can bestbe described as a bright optic white.It is popular because it looks closest to what most shoppers envision when they’re thinking about a white pearl necklace. The silver overtone looks best on women with tan or Mediterranean complexions.
  • Cream overtones are the third most popular overtone and looks like a pale yellowish tinge and gives the pearls a classic, vintage look. The cream overtone pairs best with women who have pinker complexions, blondes, older women and red heads, as this vintage-looking overtone won’t clash with these hues.

Caring for Akoya Pearls

How to Care for Akoya Pearl Jewelry

Keeping your Akoya pearl jewelry beautiful is easy, but it does require commitment. A few tips you should know about before you buy will help you maintain your pearl jewelry’s integrity, as well as keeping the pearls lustrous and their colors true and vibrant.

Akoya Pearl Care Tips

Last On: this rule is simply make sure that your pearls are the last thing you add to your outfit, after make-up, hairspray and any perfumes. This prevents the pearl from getting exposed to any harsh chemicals, which they’ll absorb (pearls are porous, by the way), and discolors the gems.

First Off: this rule isn’t as hard and fast as Rule #1, but it is #2 because if you always remember to remove your pearls first thing after you are done wearing them, you’ll be more liable to attend to Rule #3 which is …

Wipe Them Down: after every wear, wipe your pearls down with a slightly damp, clean, soft cloth to remove any residues from sweat, oils, chemicals, etc.

Store Them Flat: this goes especially for necklaces, which when hung from a hook will slowly stretch out the silk knots between each pearl. To keep your knot work tight and from fraying, lay your pearl necklace on a flat surface in your jewelry box.

Restring Them: best practices for pearl necklaces include regular maintenance like restringing once a year or two, to keep the silk fresh and the knots nice and tight.

No Swimming, No Showers: besides not wetting the silk and causing massive stretching, chlorine in water can eat away at the adhesive holding pearl earrings, pendants and rings to their mountings. So if you don’t want to lose a pearl down the drain … No Swimming, No Showers.

No Other Harsh Chemical Exposure: don’t try to whiten pearls with hydrogen peroxide, or apply any other chemical bleaches or dyes to your pearls. This can eat away at the nacre layers, or even disintegrate them completely.

And that’s about it. Following these simple rules is guaranteed to keep your new Akoya pearls looking great for decades to come.

Classic and Modern Akoya Pearl Jewelry Styles

Akoya pearls offer modern pearl lovers a huge variety of design options, from timeless classics to new, modern styles scintillating with diamond accents. The slideshow below will guide you through our most popular and beloved jewelry designns.

Akoya Pearl Jewelry Styles: Pearl Necklaces

Akoya pearl necklaces can take many forms … from classic single strands to luxury double-strands, triple-strands and long, beautiful pearl ropes. Each necklace at Pearls of Joy is double-knotted between each pearl for security, and finished with a 14kt gold clasp of your choice. Shop Akoya pearl necklaces here.

Akoya Pearl Jewelry Styles: Pearl Pendants

Akoya pearl pendants are guaranteed to never go out of style. From chic solitaires to more ornate, sparkling designs with diamonds and other gemstones, Pearls of Joy has a pendant to suit every style and price point. Shop for Akoya pearl pendants here.

Akoya Pearl Jewelry Styles: Pearl Earrings

Akoya pearl earrings at Pearls of Joy are an elegant choice for any occasion. Choose from versatile pearl stud earrings, sleek dangles or opt for diamond-accented designs that can only be found here. Each pair of pearl earrings is expertly matched for color, overtone, shape, size and luster, guaranteeing you pearl perfection. Shop for Akoya pearl earrings here.

Akoya Pearl Jewelry Styles: Pearl Rings

Akoya pearl rings can be a delicate, feminine way to showcase your love of the beautiful and unique. Pearls of Joy offers a beautiful range of pearl rings from chic solitaires to luxury diamond-accented designs, fit to grace any woman’s finger. Shop Akoya pearl rings here.

Akoya Pearl Jewelry Styles: Pearl Bracelets

Akoya Pearl Bracelets are sure to add a touch of beauty and style for any wrist. Choose from classic single strands, luxury double strand bracelets, or custom-create something even more unique. Shop for Akoya pearl bracelets here.

Akoya Pearl Jewlery Styles: Matched Pearl Sets

Akoya pearl jewelry sets are the ultimate in pearl luxury … what could be better than having every essential in one perfectly matched set?! Shop classic single strand necklace, bracelet and earring 3-piece sets to beautifully matched 2-piece pendant and earring sets suited for every day wear. Shop for Akoya pearl jewelry sets here.



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