Behind The Magic Mirror - The Art & Science Of Akoya Pearl Farming

Known as the ultimate specimen of absolute pearl perfection, The Akoya pearl is meticulously farmed in a fascinating combination of science and art. Grown in the cooler ocean temperatures of Japan, China, Vietnam, South Korea and Australia during their winter months, the Akoya pearl farmers take their time and patiently wait for their premium prize production.

The “Pinctada Fucata Martensii” oyster has come to be officially known industry wide as the "Akoya Oyster", though actually these spectacular gems are also the treasured bi-product of the “Pinctada Fucata Chemnitzii” oyster.

This is the world famous, legendary pearl known as the traditional, classic ‘Snow White” pearl, reflecting light like a mirror and prism combination, creating a Multi-colored “Mother Of Pearl” visual spectacle. Valued for their amazingly consistent size and shape and surface quality, there simply isn’t any competition that can stand up to this most magnificent pearl anywhere on Earth!

Most Akoya pearls are produced on small, independent family-owned and run farms. People who don’t understand the intensity and complexity and of the pearl producing process, might assume that these pearl farmers are quite wealthy and living the good life. In most cases, this scenario couldn’t be further from the truth of the matter.

The vast amounts of focused attention, concerted effort, extraordinary time, vast energy and exorbitant economic investment necessary to consistently put into this process is utterly exhaustive. Meanwhile, the odds of regularly harvesting a bumper crop of prime quality pearls are not very encouraging to say the least.

Like most “cultured pearls,” the Akoya is surgically nucleated with a hard, shell bead, typically from a muscle found in the Mississippi river in the USA, and a mantle portion from a recently retired oyster. This mantle material is chosen from only the oysters which have produced the very finest pearls. This material is then strategically inserted into the chosen host mollusk and allowed to let nature take its course.

Because of the colder temperature of the geographical location of the water as well as the intentional timing of waiting for the winter season to begin, the entire Akoya production process is a very prolonged procedure, taking anywhere from one year to as long as two and a half years to complete.

This is because the colder water naturally slows down the metabolism of the oyster and therefore dramatically elongates the whole pearl formation process. This intentional slowing of the pearl formation causes the nacre of the Akoya pearl to be formed in much tighter, richer, thicker, and stronger layers, which gives these royal members of the pearl family their remarkable luster and spectacularly luminescent light and color reflection.

Once nucleated, the oysters are then carefully suspended from docks where they will rest securely in the calm, peaceful, nutrient rich environment of it saltwater bed. The Akoya oysters are hearty eaters and expect nothing but the best in pure, healthy, gourmet meals as they grow their precious pearls inside their highly protective shells.

When finally the long wait is over and it’s officially pearl harvesting time these preciously pampered pearl producers are brought up out of the water and the farmers begin the intricate process of sorting out both the oysters and the pearls that they have produced, based on specific qualifications and decisions about the future usage of the pearls themselves and their proud parents, the oysters!

One reason that Akoya pearls are so extremely valuable and highly prized is simply a matter of “Economics 101” called ‘The Law Of Supply and Demand!” This is due to the sad fact that there is such a low success rate in the nucleating procedure. Also, an unfortunate reality is, there is a very low percentage of pearls that actually survive the entire pearl production process.

The science part of this art dictates that the numbers don’t lie and the bad news is less than fifty percent of Akoya oysters survive the nucleation process.

To add insult to injury, of those strong, healthy, vital and vibrant oyster that are lucky enough to successfully see a pearl through to full term, they will only survive to do so once. After that, they may be set aside to be enjoyed as a delicious and delectable gourmet meal. They might be also used for their precious “Mother of Pearl” and other beautifully ornate shell usages or even converted into feed or fertilizer for the growing of other crops and livestock.

If that weren’t enough to put tremendous stress and hardship on these struggling pearl farmers, one more truth of the trade piles yet another layer of frustration onto the situation. You see, Akoyas are peerless, premium prized pearls of the entire world. That means they are under meticulous scrutiny to ensure that ONLY the very finest organic gems are actually ever used to create Akoya Pearl Jewelry!

The mind blowing percentage of pearls that simply don’t meet the strict and severe standards to represent the Akoya name is an amazingly whopping 95%. That’s right, only 5% of those pearls that make it all the way through the entire, rigorous and risky circumstances of the Akoya process, actually qualify go on to be used in jewelry. This makes for some truly and amazingly sturdy, hardy, strong and resilient pearls. Check them out for yourself and you will very quickly see why the Akoya is the veritable “KING” of the pearl world.