A classic and timeless choice, Akoya pearls look fabulous on beaded necklaces, stud earrings or even solitaire rings. The first pearls to ever be cultured, back in 1920, Akoya pearls have remained, to this day, the most popular choice for women’s jewelry. When buying semi precious stones jewelry, pearls tend to be the first ones we think of. If you are planning to enrich your jewelry collection with a new strand of pearls, read further to find out what to look for when buying Akoya pearls.

How do Akoya pearls grow?

Like all types of pearls, as well as coral, jet, and amber, Akoya pearls are part of the organic gemstones family. This means that, as opposed to diamonds, rubies, amethysts, and basically all other precious and semi precious gemstones, organic gems are produced by living organisms. In the case of pearls, including Akoya pearls, they grow inside oysters.

Wild pearls grow in oysters that live in the sea and, usually, fishermen find them by accident. That’s why there are almost no wild pearls on the market. They are hard to find and, knowing this, people don’t usually look for them. Saltwater cultured pearls, on the other hand, grow in the same types of oysters, but in controlled farms. The process is the same – an irritant gets inside the oyster and, to protect itself, it secretes a substance that forms around the irritant and hardens. Thus, a pearl is born.

As you can imagine, in the oceans and seas of the world, the irritants, usually shell pieces, get inside oysters naturally. And, of course, it can never happen to most of the oysters, which is why you don’t find pearls inside them every time you go fishing. In oyster farms, people surgically insert the piece of shell inside every oyster to determine them to produce pearls. This is how Akoya pearls and every other type of saltwater cultured pearls grow.

Akoya pearls characteristics

When it comes to pearls, there are several factors you need to consider when buying them – the shape, luster, inclusions, size, and color.

The shape of Akoya pearls

One of the reasons Akoya pearls are classics has a lot to do with their shape. Most of them are perfectly round, and this is the main difference between Akoya and other types of pearls. In private collections, you can also find baroque Akoya, but these are extremely rare.

How big are Akoya pearls?

If you are looking to make a statement with big pearls, go for the South Sea variety instead. When you compare them to other types, Akoya pearls are the smallest. You can find this type of pearls with sizes ranging from 4 to 10 mm. However, it is very rare to find Akoya pearls of 10 mm.

What about the luster?

This type of pearls has a rich, mirror-like luster. An Akoya pearls necklace will, usually, have a bright, glossy surface and a great rate of light return. To test the luster, just look carefully at the pearl and see how clear it reflects the objects around it.

Inclusions in Akoya pearls

As all natural gems, pearls also feature inclusions. However, with high-quality Akoya pearls, you should only notice very small blemishes that are white or colorless or microscopic white wrinkles in the surface nacre.

How many color varieties are there?

Most Akoya pearls that didn’t receive a color treatment are white to grey with overtones that are silver, pink or green. The rarest varieties of these pearls are blue and feature pink and silver overtones. However, these are extremely rare. The black pearls don’t naturally exist in the Akoya type.

Are Akoya pearls the right choice for you?

With so many varieties to choose from, it can get quite difficult to buy pearls. So let’s make things easier for you. If you check at least three of the five reasons below, then it means that Akoya is the right choice for you:

  • You want a high-quality, subtle, classic pearl necklace style that will never go out of fashion.
  • You are looking for perfectly round pearls, not the baroque or freeform variety. You love symmetry and value the luster a lot.
  • Your budget is approximately $300 or slightly more for a pearl necklace.
  • The pearl necklace, earrings or solitaire ring you buy is meant both for formal and casual wear. Being rather tiny, Akoya pearls are also quite versatile.
  • You want to wear that almost perfectly white color of pearls with pale pastel overtones.

Akoya pearls are beautiful and, when compared to other pearl types, fairly priced. However, you should take very good care of them as, like most organic gemstones, pearls are high-maintenance.

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Ruxandra is a fashion blogger who teaches fashion stumped twenty to thirty somethings how to shop their jewelry boxes for polished new ensembles. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Fashionista, Nylon, and Refinery29.