A Brief History of Pearls: Akoya Pearl Processing

  A brief history of pearls


Processing Akoya pearls is a painstaking, time-consuming process that requires specialized knowledge, a good eye for detail and quite a bit of patience.

Harvesting Akoya Pearls

In order to harvest Akoya pearls, pearl farmers must remove the delicate oysters from their watery homes and transport them to a harvesting facility. Once there, the oysters' shells must be pried open; harvesters look inside to find out whether a pearl has developed. If a pearl has not developed, the oyster is discarded. However, if one has, harvesters remove it from the shell, discard the oyster and place the pearl in a collection receptacle.

Finding the Perfect Match After the Harvest

Japanese matching requirements are very stringent when it comes to Akoya pearls. Sorters pick through thousands of pearls, dividing them by size, color and luster. The sorting process continues, further dividing the pearls based on their measurements and a number of other factors.

In order to sort Akoya pearls, the sorter must have a keen eye and an in-depth knowledge of what constitutes quality in a pearl. These highly trained sorters cannot make mistakes in classifying pearls, because doing so could set back the entire operation.

Experts estimate that fewer than 5 percent of all Akoya pearls are considered high-quality.

What Happens to Matched Pearls?

Once pearls are sorted and matched according to size, luster and quality, they're processed. Processing these delicate pearls is painstaking work, and it requires technicians to be incredibly careful. Using very small drill bits, technicians must use steady hands to create extremely small tunnels through the centers of pearls. One mistake can cause a pearl to crack, which would render it useless.

As many as 90 percent of all Akoya pearls must be lightly bleached and tinted after drilling to help pearl farmers achieve such perfect matches. These colored enhancements are intended to be permanent, and they should not change over time.

How pearls form in oysters
How pearls are harvested
How pearls brought to market
Know your Akoya pearls
Akoya Pearl Cultivation
Akoya Pearl Harvesting
Akoya Pearl Processing
Akoya Pearl Evaluation
Quality Factor One: Luster
Luster of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Two: Surface
Surface of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Three: Shape
Shape of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Four: Color
Color of Akoya Pearls
Quality Factor Five: Size
Size of Akoya Pearls
Know your South Sea pearls
South Sea Pearl Cultivation
South Sea Pearl Harvesting
South Sea Pearl Processing
South Sea Pearl Quality Evaluation
Luster of South Sea Pearls
Surface of South Sea Pearls
Shape of South Sea Pearls
Color of South Sea Pearls
Size of South Sea Pearls
Know your Tahitian pearls
Tahitian Pearl Cultivation
Tahitian Pearl Harvesting
Tahitian Pearl Processing
Tahitian Pearl Quality Evaluation
Luster of Tahitian Pearls
Surface of Tahitian Pearls
Shape of Tahitian Pearls
Color of Tahitian Pearls
Size of Tahitian Pearls
Gift Giving Occasions

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