Pearls, Pearls, and More Pearls!

Do you know where pearls come from? They don't grow on trees. You can't plant them. They aren't mined out of the ground either. So where do pearls come from? Pearls come from a living sea creature: the oyster.  These beautiful round jewels are the result of a biological process inside the oyster as it protects itself from foreign substances.


Although clams and mussels can also produce pearls, they don't do so very often. Most pearls are made by oysters, and they can be made in either freshwater or saltwater environments.

What kind of pearls does Curious Little Oyster use?

We use farm raised Japanese Akoya saltwater oysters. Akoya pearls are some of the most beautiful cultured pearls available. They come from the relatively small Akoya oyster. In order to preserve the species, most Akoya oysters used for pearl farming are bred in hatcheries. 

How Are Akoya Pearls Made?

In many cases, Akoya pearls come directly from Japanese pearl farms. As with all cultured pearls, these beautiful specimens require a pearl farmer to nucleate an oyster. What does nucleate mean? It means they carefully insert an irritant without damaging the soft tissue of the oyster. An irritant in nature would be a grain of sand, piece of shell, bone, or coral. In farming, the Akoya oyster is nucleated with a mother-of-pearl shell-bead. The bead is coated with a tiny sample of mantle tissue from another oyster. This coated bead is then implanted into the oyster and irritates the soft tissue, causing the oyster to produce secretions called "nacre” which envelopes the foreign object. The pearl grows around the bead in the same way it would occur over the grain of sand, shell, or coral in the wild. The shape of the pearl that is produced is directly related to the shape of the bead, which is why most Akoya pearls that are farmed are round. Over time, the nacre layers build up concentrically around the irritant, eventually forming what we know of as a gleaming, gorgeous pearl! 

What's Special About Akoya Pearls?
Akoya pearls are well known for their superior luster and color. They're some of the most popular types of cultured pearls because they're so beautiful; they're often ideal for pearl strands and earrings. Saltwater Akoya pearls are quite different than freshwater pearls. They're typically larger, smoother and rounder, and when compared side-by-side with freshwater pearls, they often have a much more vibrant luster.

How Long Does it Take Farm Raised Akoya Pearls to Grow?
On a typical Japanese pearl farm, it takes between 10 and 18 months for a cultured Akoya pearl to grow large enough for harvest. Akoya pearls can range in size from 2.0mm up through 9.5mm and very rarely 10mm.  Most harvested pearls are between 6mm and 8mm due to the amount of time farmed. Your pearl will be between 6mm and 8mm. 

What Are The Six Quality Factors in Akoya Pearls?
When experts are evaluating Akoya pearls, which are commonly known as the most lustrous of all pearls, there are actually looking at six distinct quality factors. These six quality factors include:

  • Luster. Perhaps the most important of all factors is a pearl's luster. The luster is what gives a cultured pearl its beauty. Pearl experts classify a pearls luster on a scale that ranges from poor to excellent. A pearl with a poor luster has a dim, diffused luster; a pearl with excellent luster has a bright, sharp and distinct reflection.

  • Size. Typically, larger pearls are more valuable than smaller pearls are. However, pearls must still meet other quality criteria new in order to be considered valuable.

  • Shape. Because round pearls are difficult to culture, they are rare. For that reason, round pearls are typically more valuable than pearls with other shapes are.

  • Color. Akoya pearls are generally white with rose overtones. In terms of color, experts look at the pearl's "body color," which is its dominant overall color; its overtone, and its orient, which is a display of iridescent colors on or just beneath its surface.

  • Surface quality. While some surface characteristics are not noticeable to the naked eye, others are. Like any gem, a pearl with poor surface quality is less valuable than one with excellent surface quality.

  • Nacre quality. Nacre quality is closely related to luster, but they aren't the same thing. A high quality pearl has a thick layer of nacre, which affects the luster and ensures that the pearl is durable.

What color will my pearl be?

Your pearl can be white, pink, purple, or black. There are many different shades your pearl can be. You can get a black pearl with purple, green or blue undertones. You might get a peachy pink or purple pink (which I like to call pinkle). Your white could be a snow white, a classic white, cream or even have a gold undertone. Purple can end up being a light lavender or a deep purple. You never know what color your pearl will be! Are you curious and ready to find out? What are you waiting for? 

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