Akoya Pearls vs. Freshwater Pearls

Pearls are remarkable organic gems with a rich and fascinating history. Whether it is the classic Akoya pearls or the affordable freshwater pearls you think of, one thing comes to mind: their distinguished beauty. Nevertheless, there are several characteristics that set these types of pearls apart.

Some freshwater pearls look remarkably similar to Akoya pearls. However, the price per strand varies significantly. That is because each pearl type and each pearl is assessed according to a set of factors. Together, they dictate the quality and the value of pearls. Let us dwell on these for a moment and gain deeper insight into the differences between Akoya pearls and freshwater pearls.

freshwater pearls

What are Akoya Pearls?

Akoya pearls represent one type of cultured pearls. Natural pearls have sadly become a rarity in today’s world. As such, renowned jewelers have worked together with communities to set up pearl oyster farms where these precious organic gems are created. Akoya pearls make no exception.

Cultured in the Akoya oyster, these timeless beauties are deemed the classics of pearl jewelry. The pearly white or cream of the Akoya pearl is quite recognizable around the world. Its unique luster, size and color add to its value.

Cultured Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls are cultured both in Japan and in China. However, most of the cultured Akoya pearls are harvested in Japan farms. These exquisite gems are grown around a beaded nucleus. The farmer carefully inserts an irritant in the Pinctada fucata oyster.

The oyster then covers the beaded nucleus in layer after layer of nacre. An Akoya cultured pearl takes between 10 and 18 months to grow sufficiently to be harvested. Although the farming process is controlled, the chances that all harvested Akoya pearls look the same are fairly slim. This is why each of them is controlled individually before they are included in an Akoya pearl necklace or a pair of Akoya pearl earrings. Compared to freshwater pearls, this is how Akoya pearls fare.

  • The body color of Akoya pearls is generally white. With lovely rose overtones, Akoya pearls are deemed the classics of pearl jewelry. When experts evaluate the color of Akoya pearls, they take the orient, the overtone, and the body color into account. While there are no two identical Akoya pearls in the world, it’s important that they’re almost identical to the naked eye when they are included in a Japanese Akoya pearl necklace.
  • The luster of Akoya cultured pearls is one of the most distinguishing traits of these organic gems. The luster is typically perceived as the one factor that gives a pearl its beauty. The luster of a pearl varies from poor to excellent. In the case of Japanese Akoya pearls, the rating varies from A to AAA. The latter is the highest grade for the luster of the pearl.
  • The rule of thumb when it comes to size is that the larger the pearl, the more valuable it is. Which, when it comes to Akoya vs freshwater pearls, is a considerable gain for the former. Akoya jewels grow between 6 and 8.5 mm.
  • Almost perfectly rounded Akoya pearls are among the most valuable. Spherical pearls are difficult to culture and therefore are quite rare.
  • Surface and Nacre. The quality of the nacre of Akoya pearls directly impacts the pearls’ luster. However, it also matters in terms of durability. The thicker the nacre of a pearl, the longer it can withstand wear-tear. These fragile gems need special and attentive care. The surface of an Akoya pearl is another important factor for evaluating the Akoya pearl’s value. The fewer blemishes appear on the pearly white surface, the better.

Akoya pearls

Akoya pearls are a precious gift for yourself and your loved ones. Whether you are thinking of buying a strand of Akoya pearls, an Akoya pearl bracelet or a pair of Akoya pearl stud earrings, these classics of pearl jewelry are truly the ideal choice!

What are Freshwater Pearls?

Just as Akoya pearls, freshwater pearls are cultured in special farms. However, these delicate gems are also grown in mussels and, as their name suggests, in freshwater instead of saltwater. This is why their growth process is fairly different than that of Akoya pearls. One significant difference is that cultured freshwater pearls aren’t created with the help of a beaded nucleus.

Just as the prized Akoya, freshwater pearls are typically grown in Asia. While some of these look remarkably similar to Akoya pearls, there are several indicators that will help you tell them apart.

Akoya vs. Freshwater Pearls

  • Cultured freshwater pearls that are mistaken for Akoya gemstones to the untrained eye have a white body color. However, these pearls can be found in white, pink, champagne or black. While some of the pastel body colors are achieved naturally, it is common for cultured freshwater to be treated to achieve rich black or darker body colors.
  • The luster of freshwater pearls is remarkable. Matched on a strand, freshwater pearls will lend their gentle iridescence to your complexion.
  • Smaller than the Akoya pearl,  the cultured freshwater pearls is created without the help of a beaded nucleus. This suggests the fact that these pearls are smaller, but also more resistant due to the consistence of the nacre.
  • Cultured freshwater pearls have irregular shapes most of the times. Partly due to the fact that they are grown without a beaded nucleus and partly due to external influences during the growth process, these gems grow in intriguing irregular shapes. This is part of their charm for many who adore their beauty at an outstanding value.
  • Nacre and surface. Freshwater pearls tend to have more irregular surface than Akoya pearls. Nonetheless, their nacre is thicker and more resistant than that of Akoya cultured pearls. This makes them more alluring for some.

These are the main points to consider as far as Akoya pearls vs. freshwater pearls are concerned. Both pearl types have their own unique beauty and value. Yet in the end, what matters most is the value that you give your own pearls.

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3

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