About Akoya pearls
Akoya pearls are cultured pearls which are cultivated from the oyster species Pinctada fucata martensii, primarily in Japan and China. Renowned for their luster, Akoya pearls are the pearls most often used in necklaces. They are generally white or cream colored, and have overtone colors of rose, yellow, or green.
After the development of modern pearl culturing techniques by Kokichi Mikimoto in the early part of the 20th century, akoyas from Japan became the first pearls to be cultured on a large scale. They continue to be popular today, although production of Japanese akoyas has declined somewhat in recent years, due to water pollution and disease.
In recent years the Chinese have overtaken the Japanese in akoya pearl production. The Chinese began culturing akoya pearls in the early 90's, but had limited success until recent years. For more than a decade Chinese akoya pearls have been considered vastly inferior to this Japanese counterparts, but as experience and more advance technologies have become more common place the Chinese are now producing akoya pearls of qualities that rival that of the Japanese.
Due to the increased pressure of the Chinese competition many Japanese pearl farmers have focused much of their attention on culturing large akoya pearls, as quality akoya pearls larger than 8mm are a rare find in China. In lieu of farming smaller pearls, many Japanese factories now import their smaller akoya requirements from neighboring China. The pearls are treated and strung in Japan so that they may still carry the mark 'Made in Japan'. It has been reported that more than 80% of the pearls 7mm and smaller have come from Chinese farms regardless of whether or not they are sold by Japanese suppliers.
The akoya oyster is the smallest pearl-producing oyster, so akoya pearls also tend to be small, ranging in size from about 2 to 11 millimeters. They also tend to be the most consistently round and near-round pearls, making them ideal in terms of matching for multi-pearl jewelry such as strands, bracelets, earrings etc.