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INDONESIAN South Sea Pearls : Glimmering Maritime Richness From The Sea

Indonesia South Sea Pearl

Indonesia has plenty of maritime resources being the world’s largest archipelago. One of the most valuable resources is South Sea Pearl of which Indonesia is the world’s largest producer.

The central government is working together with regional administrations and pearl association to increase production and improve quality.


Pearl is a hard object being is produced in the tissue (usually the mantle) of a living mollusk. Just like its shell, pearl is consisted of concentric layers made of calcium carbonate in tiny crystalline form.

An ideal pearl should have a perfect and smooth round form although there are many other forms. For centuries, natural pearls with high quality have been regarded as gemstones and objects of beauty.
The word “pearl” has been associated with something rare, good, valuable and splendid.

Pearl is a marine commodity with high economic value and good prospect for business development in the future. There are more and more people looking for pearl and the price is increasing from year to year.

There are huge potentials for Indonesian pearl being sold abroad. Indonesian marine resources still allow further development of pearls for higher production rate.

Pearl cultivation is one of sustainable and environmentally friendly maritime activities. The industry absorbs 5,000 permanent workers and 1,500 seasonal workers, reported in May 2015.

South Sea Pearl is one the world’s largest and most expensive pearls with a size of between 8 millimeters and 22 millimeters and ranges from white to golden in color.

Production data in 2013 and 2014 revealed that local production of South Sea Pearl reached some 5,400 kilograms or nearly half of the world’s estimated production of 12,700 kilograms.

Meanwhile, Indonesian export of raw pearls reached between US$65 million and US$70 million, or about 32% from the world’s global export of US$200 million.

Although Indonesian production of South Sea Pearl reached 42%, the value was only 32% because Indonesian pearls have yet to reach its best quality.

If the quality can be improved, the export value can be boosted up to 50% with the same production rate.

The world’s center for pearl trading, including South Sea Pearl, is still in Japan and almost 80% of the world’s sea pearls (Akoya, Black Pearl, and South Sea Pearl) is shipped to Japan first before being distributed to other countries.

Sea Pearl Cultivation

Pearls are cultured to be used in jewelry but in the past pearls are also used as ornamentation at luxurious dresses.

Pearls can also be crushed to be used in cosmetics, medicines, or paint formulas.

Quality pearls almost always colorful and resemblance mother of pearl, such as the interior of shell producing the pearls.

Almost all of shelled mollusks can produce pearls although less shiny or less round.

Although these pearls are also recognized as “pearl” by gemology laboratory and under the US Federal Trade Commission’s regulation and are formed in the same way, most of them are not valuable unless as antique goods.

Almost all shelled mollusk or oysters can produce various types of pearls through natural process when a microscopic object is trapped in the mollusk’s mantle but these pearls are not recognized as gemstones.

A natural pearl is formed without human intervention in the wild, which is very rarely to happen.

In the past, hundreds of pearl oysters have to be collected and opened, therefore killed to find a pearl.

This is the only way to fund pearls for centuries and the main reason why pearls were such of high value in the past.

On the other hand, cultured pearls are formed through human intervention in a pearl farm.

One of Indonesia’s major sea pearl producing areas is Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), which cultivates Pinctada maxima oyster species, also known as Pearl Queen.

Cultivation process starts with oyster larvae which are kept in tanks with the capacity of five tons of sea water, holding some 9 million larvae until they are three week old.

The hatchery is conducted indoor with great care. Larvae are fed with planktons whose quality is closely monitored.

After three weeks, the larvae are moved to another tank and are only ready to be placed on the sea only after reaching a diameter of 1 millimeter or 40 days.

Two year old oysters are ready to undergo core insertion with nucleus coming from freshwater mussel from Mississippi River in the United States.

Each insertion process needs a mussel donor to provide mantle tissue to envelope the nucleus which will determine the color of the harvested pearl.

After three months, the oysters are scanned using X-Ray to select the wanted pearl size.

Once a month, the oyster shell is cleaned on the floating cage to cleanse worms, pests and other impurities which will affect oyster development and pearl yield before being returned to other floating cage in the waters off East Lombok.

The entire process can take up to four years and each oyster produces only 1 or 2 pearls. This long process is why the price of sea pearl is so expensive, other than its beauty.

Because the process of cultivating sea pearl is long, complex, capital-intensive and needs high technology, not many producers in Lombok can stay in the industry.

Most players left the business not only due to economic crisis, but also because Chinese fresh water pearls are saturating the market with cheaper price and better quality resembling sea pearls.

From 39 producers, now there are only 6 to 8 producers left in Lombok. Some of them managed to stay thanks to their marketing networks abroad, reported in April 2015.

Currently Indonesia only contributed some 26% from the world’s market need and the figure can be increased to 50%.

Indonesian maritime resources still allow further development when we consider cultivation area, labor force, and equipment needed for pearl cultivation.

One of existing pearl producers is located in Malaka subdistrict, Pemenang district in North Lombok regency, NTB, which also opens showroom and pearl education tour.

The producer, an Australian company, spots the opportunity to combine pearl industry with education tourism and can be emulated by local pearl producers.

Indonesian South Sea Pearl has its own uniqueness with stunning and long-lasting color and luster so that they are highly sought in the international markets. The pearls are traded in both loose and jewelry forms.

Indonesian South Sea Pearl Farm Location

The production centers of Pinctada maxima are spread in various provinces such as:

  • Lombok and Sumbawa in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB);
  • Buleleng, Karangasem and Negara in Bali;
  • Central Sulawesi;
  • Banywangi and Madura in East Java;
  • Alor, Kupang, Labuan Bajo, Larantuka, Maumere in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT);
  • Gorontalo;
  • Lampung;
  • Aru, Banda, Seram, Tanimbar and Tual in Maluku;
  • Halmahera in North Maluku;
  • Bitung and Manado in North Sulawesi;
  • Kendari in Southeast Sulawesi;
  • and Raja Ampat in West Papua.

There were 23 companies cultivating sea pearls recorded in 2013, consisted of 17 national companies and 6 foreign companies, of which 21 companies have joined the Asosiasi Budidaya Mutiara Indonesia (ASBUMI), or the Indonesian Association of Pearls Cultivation.

The Maritime Affairs and Fishery Ministry is upbeat the value of pearl export will increase considering that Indonesia has several supporting factors such as cultivation area, manpower, supporting equipment and technology.

The realize the objective the ministry has taken several steps such as establishing the Sea Shell Broodstock Center in Karangasem, Bali, in 2011. The broodstock center, handling pearl oyster and abalone, joined the broodstock center for vaname (whiteleg) shrimp which was established in 2008.

The ministry’s Pearl Sub-Commission and regional administrations have implemented partnership pattern with four pillars to protect Indonesian pearl producers. The pillars are: fishermen or cultivators, scientists, businesses and empowerment of coastal communities for pearl cultivation such as in Buleleng, Bali.

Indonesia has higher potential of pearl export.

Indonesia was the world’s 10th largest exporter of pearl with a share of 1.26% in 2014.

Hong Kong led the tally with a market share of 51.31% and followed by Japan in the second place at 10.31%.

United Arab Emirates was third with a market share of 9.88%, China and Australia shared the fourth place with a market share of 5.37%.

Hong Kong enjoyed an average growth rate of 27% in the 2010-2014 period followed by Japan which recorded 3.79% while United Arab Emirates had an impressive growth rate of 265.97%.

At the fourth place was China whose growth was contracted by 17.52% while Australia also suffered decreasing growth of 15.10%.

The world’s export of pearl in 2014 worth US$2.28 billion, down from by US$2.36 billion of decreasing by 3.66% from 2013.

The world’s export of pearl had an average growth of 14.60% from US$1.46 billion in 2010 to US$2.28 billion in 2014.

The world’s three major pearl commodities in 2014 were pearls cultured worked which were categorized under Harmonized System (HS) code 710122 with products worth US$1.83 billion or 80.59% of market share, followed by HS 710121 pearls cultured unworked at US$291.12 million (12.79%) and HS 710110 pearls natural whether or not worked or graded at US$150.65 billion (6.62%).

According to Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, Indonesia has become the world’s largest producer of South Sea Pearl since 2015 with a market share of 43%. Value wise, Indonesia was ranked ninth with an export of US$29.43 million or 2.07% from the world’s total pearl export worth some US$1.41 billion.

The top exporters were Hong Kong, China, Japan, Australia, Tahiti, the United States, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s top pearl markets were Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Switzerland, India, New Zealand and France.

Indonesia actually has a very potentials of pearl export but many are not recorded. Indonesia only recorded an export of US$28.74 million worth of pearls in 2013.

Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti said Indonesian pearl export value should have reached US$732 million, or six times of Australian pearl trade. The estimate was based on the assumption that Indonesia has larger territory than Australia, quoted Susi as saying.

She said that if Australia claimed that its potential of sea pearl reached 13%, Indonesia should have 80% “If Australia has US$122 million [in pearl trade], we must have six times [of that figure],” she said.

Therefore, Susi called on the Customs and Excise Directorate General to prevent smuggling activities, especially pearl, because it is damaging the economy.

Pearl smuggling caused the potential loss of revenue in the maritime sector as the export is not recorded and there are no paid taxes, both individual and corporation.

Indonesia is well known for its maritime resource with huge potentials for sea pearls. The quality of Indonesian sea pearls has been recognized by the international market but unfortunately the popularity of Indonesian sea pearls has been hijacked by other countries also producing sea pearl.

An Australian expert on marine life said Indonesia is the center of South Sea Pearl. For comparison, Chinese fresh water pearl oysters can produce up to 40 pearls in such a short period of time and worth between US$1 and US$15 each.

On the other hand, South Sea Pearls from Indonesian Pinctada maxima command higher price. The oyster can only produce one pearl, which is sold at between US$25 and US$100 per gram of pearl. The huge price difference causes Indonesian consumers to buy and import imitation and fake pearls instead of South Sea Pearl.

Meanwhile, pearl exporters face another problem in the absence of government issued pearl certification. Without certification, other countries often claim Indonesian pearls at the international traders.

Precious pearls are available in the wild but in very limited number. Sea pearls command higher price than fresh water pearls. Cultured pearls are the majority of pearls being sold in the market. Imitation pearls are being traded more despite of its poor quality. In general, imitation pearls can be easily differentiated from genuine pearls.

According to the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, Indonesia has become the world’s largest producer of South Sea Pearl since 2005 with a market share of 43%. Value wise, Indonesia was ranked ninth with an export of US$29.43 million or 2.07% from the world’s total pearl export worth some US$1.41 billion.

The top exporters were Hong Kong, China, Japan, Australia, Tahiti, the United States, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s top pearl markets were Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Switzerland, India, New Zealand and France.

The Government of Indonesia through the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is taking various steps to further promote Indonesian pearls by strengthening the brand of Indonesian South Sea Pearl (ISSP).

Dubai International Jewelry Week (DIJW)

One effort is by taking part at various international trade fairs such as the Dubai International Jewelry Week (DIJW). It is expected that such participations will be widely recognized in the international markets which in turn increase the export performance.

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry facilitated four companies as co-exhibitors at the Indonesian Pavilion to take part in the 2015 DIJW which was held at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Dec. 9-12.

The companies were Rosario Mutiara and Nurhikmah Pearls from Jakarta, MJM Jewelry from Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, and Maisya Jewelry from Bogor, West Java, as reported by the Indonesian Trade Promotion Center (ITPC) in Dubai.

During the exhibition, the co-exhibitors recorded business transactions worth US$74,622 consisting of US$29,190 or 39% for loose pearls and the remaining US$45,432 for pearl jewelry.

The buyers came from various countries such as host United Arab Emirates, Australia, Belgium, China, Germany, India, Kuwait, the Philippines, Qatar, and the United States.

It is projected that closer cooperation and better coordination between Dubai ITPC and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry to reap better results in the future.

In 2016, the DIJW will be held on Dec. 7-10. Indonesia is expected to participate with larger pavilion which has more booths. Active role from the Asosiasi Budidaya Mutiara Indonesia (ASBUMI), or the Indonesian Association of Pearls Cultivation, will allow more companies to take part in the exhibition considering Indonesia is the largest producer of South Sea Pearl at 43% therefore further strengthening Indonesian South Sea Pearl brand image in the international market.

Based on data from the World Gold Council, the United Arab Emirates is the world’s fifth largest gold consumer with a value reaching US$2.5 billion, some of which was imported from Indonesia. The import in 2013 was US$38 million and skyrocketed to US$502, or an increase of 496.3%, in 2004.

The figures showed that Indonesia has huge potentials to export more Indonesian jewelry (gold, silver, precious metal and other jewelry) to United Arab Emirates, especially Indonesian South Sea Pearl to substitute gold.

Writer : Dwi Wiedhayat

Published by : DIRECTORATE GENERAL OF NATIONAL EXPORT DEVELOPMENT – Ministry of Trade of The Republic of Indonesia

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Pinctada radiata pearl oyster

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Pinctada radiata

Distinguishing Characteristics
Pinctada radiata is most famous for being one of the greatest sources of natural pearls. Historically, P. radiata pearls from the Ceylon region made up the majority of pearls available. This particular variety has almost entirely white nacre which produces predominantly silver and yellow pearls. The lips of the pale yellow scallop are slightly pink. Seven-eight brownish radial bands encircle the shell. The Persian variety is larger and darker with reddish lips.

pearl shell diagram
Pearl Shell Diagram
Habitat and Ecology
P. radiata is characteristic of hard surfaces and has been found attached to rocks and hard sandy plateaus, 10-20 meters deep. Oysters are attached in clusters to many via byssal threads (the tough organic fiber made by oysters). Over the years an assemblage consists of dead pearl oyster shells, tube worms, calcareous algae, and dead coral. This structure acts as a landing dock for the veliger (free-swimming larva) to metamorphose into juvenile pearl oysters that will maintain the reproductive cycle. Storms and predators are a major threat to the sustainable health of this thriving habitat.

Pinctada radiata pearls
Pinctada radiata is mostly known for producing seed pearls and some medium sized pearls. Seed pearls are a commercial term describing pearls with a diameter of less than 2mm (<0.25 grains). Due to their thin shell, P. radiata provides the cheapest Mother of Pearl. Until the 1920s, P. radiata (especially those from the Ceylon region of Sri Lanka) fueled the world’s demand for Mother of Pearl and pearls. The Ceylon oyster is similar to the Akoya, but is not used in pearl cultivation like the Akoya pearl oyster. This is due to several factors:

Since the 1930s, Petroleum has dominated the economies of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea countries, which make up the bulk of the P. radiata shell. The discovery of oil in pearl harvesting and diving that ended in the 1930s was just a hobby.
Bahrain, Sri Lanka and India have each tried to develop a cultured pearl industry, but tradition favors natural pearls
Through years of aquaculture, Japan has created the most robust Akoya oyster farm to cultivate the pearl it loves: large, round, shiny and milky white.

Pearls from P.radiata have historically been used for decoration and jewelry. Most of the pearls are exported from Bahrain and then shipped to London. The shells were given a symbolic meaning and some have been recovered from ancient tombs of the Hellenistic-Roman period.

Originally thought to be P. radiata, P. anomioides is now designated as a separate species.

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Mother Of Pearl (MOP)

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Mother Of Pearl Defined
Mother of pearl is the iridescent layer on the inside of some mollusk species consisting of aragonite and calcite, a polymorphic calcium carbonate. Mother of pearl is also the main material used in the manufacture of pearl cores.

Mother of Pearl Forms the Inside of the Shell
Famous for its shimmering beauty all over the world, the colorful shell known as mother of pearl is an organic/inorganic material that coats the inside of the mollusk shell. The play of colors floating on the surface of the interior layer also known as luster is an optical phenomenon in which wavelengths of light are scattered and refracted back towards the viewer in a dazzling display.

Mother of Pearl
Until it was replaced with plastic in the mid-20th century, Mother-of-Pearl was also used to manufacture shiny buttons for clothing. This is the case in Broome, Australia, a well-known South Sea pearl producing area. Before South Sea pearls became a staple area, this small town thrived in the mother pearl business of Pinctada maxima.

Mother Of Pearl Is Now Used To Grow Pearls
Mother of pearl is now widely used as a core in pearl cultivation. The shells are cut into squares and then run through a process that rounds the pieces into beads. These beads are implanted into the oyster, which then secretes the nacre on the mother-of-pearl beads to form cultured pearls. See nacre for a fuller description.

Beauty And Destination At Sea
Mother of pearl has two functions: to provide protection from predators, and to provide protection from the elements. Shielding mollusks from predators and parasites is a process called encystation. Nacre is secreted by mollusk and graveyard traps that attack foreign parasites and deitrus, smoothing irritation and sometimes creating the rarest of treasures: pearls.

Shell Growth
Nacre provides shelter for soft-bodied mollusks; The strength and resilience of the shell allows the animal to survive environmental stresses and the unrelenting stresses of surviving in its habitat. The shell structure begins with a round, oval-like shape called the umbo. The umbo is gradually surrounded by concentric growth rings of nacre which will thicken and expand outward continuously, to accommodate the animal throughout its lifespan.

Shell Structure
The mollusk shell contains three layers: periostacum (conchiolin layer), ostracum (prismatic layer), and hypostracum (last mother of pearl layer).

Protective Outer Shell
Periostracum is the outermost layer of the shell; it is the first layer to form around the mollusk during the immature glochidaeal stage, and is composed entirely of organic conchiolin, a dark brown, black, green or dark blue colored organic substance composed of the protein keratin that can also be found in the human epidermis.

Prismatic Coating
The ostracum, or prismatic layer, is the central layer and consists of small hexagonal calcite crystals measuring one micron in size. In freshwater molluscs the crystals are mainly aragonite, due to the variety of trace elements found in the water. Contrary to its name, the prismatic coating is colorless or beautiful; it provides a degree of stability to the hypostracum, and is brown to brownish yellow in color with a porcelain finish. The crystals are arranged parallel to each other and held together by a thin film of organic matter.

Nacreous Layer
Hypostracum, or mother of pearl layer, is the last layer that displays color and color. Mother of pearl consists almost entirely of calcium carbonate (CaCo3), which contains millions of platelets of aragonite crystals. These crystals measure 0.3-0.5 microns in diameter, and are stacked on top of each other in a brick-like structure. Interspersed with very thin sheets of conchiolin lies? joint thrombosis. Each layer grows intermittently; some layers show straight and even growth, while others are rounded, but none run parallel to the shell surface. The result is similar to a topographic map detailing ridges and valleys when viewed under 40x magnification.

The growth of the mother pearl layer is very slow. In P. margaritifera, the mean level is about 13 aragonite platelets per day; other species excrete nacre at a faster or slower rate depending on environmental conditions.

Crystal Effect
Aragonite platelets are transparent and mimic the wavelengths of visible light, allowing light rays to be absorbed, scattered and reflected back to the viewer in a variety of colors resulting in the phenomenon of iridescence.

While we now know the science behind the iridescence effect, it doesn’t make the phenomenon any less beautiful or inspire the imaginations of people around the world.

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Freshwater Pearl VS Cultured Pearls

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Do I get freshwater pearls or pearls?
A common question faced by many pearl buyers today is whether a particular strand of pearl consists of freshwater or cultured pearls. This question cannot have a definite answer because freshwater pearls are actually cultured pearls.

Freshwater Pearls Are Cultivated Pearls, But They Are Not Akoya
The reason so many buyers distinguish cultured pearls from freshwater pearls, is because “cultured pearls” is a trade term that is still used by many people today to describe akoya pearls. Although akoya pearls are cultured pearls, their nucleation process is a saltwater process and is much different from that of freshwater cultured pearls.

Know the Origin of Your Cultured Pearls To Know Their Value
This is important to understand when shopping for pearls because freshwater pearl sellers may describe their product as cultured pearls. It is always important to identify the origin of cultured pearls in order to make an informed purchasing decision, as a strand of freshwater pearls will never be as valuable as a strand of equivalent quality akoya pearls.

All Pearls Grown Today Are Cultivated Pearls, But Don’t Need Freshwater
Any pearl grown and marketed today, (other than those from the Persian Gulf) is considered a cultured pearl. This is because these pearls would not exist without human intervention. Freshwater pearls, although they may be solid nacre, are cultured pearls in which the shell nucleates with a piece of mantle tissue in the mantle tissue. All pearls cultured in saltwater are nucleated in the gonads with a piece of mantle tissue, and the mother-of-pearl bead, which is how the akoya pearl is nucleated. This is why akoya pearls are cultured pearls, but they are saltwater, not freshwater, and are much different in appearance and more valuable than freshwater pearls.

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Akoya Pearl

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Japanese Akoya Pearl Defined

Japanese Akoya pearls is a term that is often used as a misnomer to describe all cultured akoya pearls. This is no longer an accepted industry term as akoya pearls are now grown in China, South Korea, Vietnam and Australia. Japanese akoya pearls is the correct term for akoya pearls grown in Japan, and is often applied to akoya pearls that have been processed in Japan, regardless of their origin.

Cara memilih perhiasan mutiara

Akoya Pearl Mollusk
Pearl producers cultivate akoya pearls in bivalve molluscs of the genus Pinctada. The main species used in cultivation are Pinctada fucata (particularly the sub-species martensii) and Pinctada chemnizti. Pinctada fucata martensi is native to coastal waters of Japan, while Pinctada chemnitzi is more productive in the Gulf of Tonkin and along the Chinese coast. Currently, most of the akoya pearl producers in China and Japan cultivate by hybridization of the two species.

Cultivated Akoya Pearl Production
Over the past century, Japan has been the undisputed producer of akoya pearls. Japanese akoya pearls have been recognized as a hallmark of classic quality and elegance. Pearliculture of akoya pearls only started 100 years ago with a technique developed by William Saville-Kent and used by Kokichi Mikimoto – the same technique as nuclear insertion is used today.

In the 1990s and through 2007, Japanese akoya pearl producers lost most of their market share due to the booming growth of Chinese producers, at one time producing nearly the same number of akoya pearls. As reported in The International Pearling Journal and the 2006, JCK October Issue Annual Pearl Report, much of China’s production flows through Japan to be marketed as, and mixed with, Japanese akoya pearls*.

The years 2008 and 2009 brought concurrent natural disasters to the akoya pearl region of China, effectively destroying almost all production. Today, China is once again a very small player in the production of akoya pearls, leaving Japan to dominate the market once again.

Characteristics of Akoya Pearl
Akoya pearl oysters, whether Japanese, Chinese or Australian, have the same characteristics. They produce smaller cultured pearls than other saltwater mollusks such as Pinctada margaritafera (black lip pearl oyster) and Pinctada maxima (white lip pearl oyster). Pearl size ranges from 2 to 11 mm, with the most common sizes in the 6 to 8 mm range. When all other factors are equal, the value of akoya pearls increases with size.

Pair of 9 mm akoya pearl earrings
Most akoya pearls are arranged into classic white strands, which gradually add up little by little. For example, single strands can be graduated from 6.5 to 7 mm or from 7 to 7.5 mm. If a strand of akoya pearls is described as a single size, such as 7.5 mm, it is safe to assume the actual size ranges from 7 to 7.5 mm.

Because akoya pearls are beaded and the culture time rarely exceeds two years, the nacre covering the nucleus is relatively thin compared to other saltwater cultured pearls. During the warmer months, nacre deposition is at its peak, but during the colder months, especially in Japan, the metabolism of the akoya pearl oyster drops and deposition slows considerably. The short period after the coolest months of the year is considered the prime time to harvest akoya pearls, as the slower rate of deposition often results in a firmer, glossy, and even three-dimensional sheen.

Akoya Pearl Value Factor
The value of the akoya pearl strand is determined by six quality attributes. When one akoya pearl or strand of akoya pearls scores in the highest category of each excluding size, the pearl or strand of pearls is said to be of “hanadama quality,” or highest quality. But because no two pearls are exactly alike, the range of quality in hanadama does exist.

Akoya pearls usually measure between 2 and 11 mm, while the most common sizes range between 6 and 8 mm. When all other factors are equal, the larger pearl is more valuable.

Akoya pearl oysters are grafted with tiny perfectly round beads, so the akoya pearls are mostly perfectly round. Other shapes such as drops, ovals and even baroque exotic colors do exist but are considered unusual.

Akoya pearls are most often white, with a slight rose or silver tone. However, these colors are rarely natural, as akoya pearls undergo treatments that include maeshori (pre-treatment – ​​increased luster), bleaching (creates a uniform white body color) and pink (organic dyes produce pink undertones).


The naturally occurring body of akoya pearls includes white, silver, silver-blue, yellow and cream, with undertones of pink, silver and green.

A rare natural colored (blue) akoya pearl strand
Akoya pearls are most often valued for their mirror-like luster. Luster is the most important value factor in assessing akoya pearls. A strand that exhibits a strong sheen and few surface stains is considered more valuable than a cleaner strand with a good or bad shine.

The luster value factor contains five categories:
Extraordinary? Reflection looks bright, clear and distinct
Very Good – Reflections appear bright, sharp and almost distinct
Good Reflection looks bright but no different
Fair? Weak reflection and blurry image
Poor? The reflection is dim to nothing and the image is indistinguishable


The term surface is used to assess the surface condition of akoya pearls. While akoya pearls are rarely blemish-free, when other value factors are equal, the fewer visible stains on the pearl’s surface, the higher the grade.

Surface blemishes are not limited to obvious holes, dents and bumps, but also include light or dull spots in pearl reflection or slight inconsistencies such as wrinkles on the surface of the nacre. Any inconsistency of the nacre is considered a defect.

Nacre Quality
The qualities of Nacre are classified into three categories:
Acceptable? the pearl core is invisible and the pearl has no chalky appearance
Core visible? Visible flashes when pearls are rotated and beads are visible
Chalky appearance? Pearls show a clear dull appearance

Reported in Pearl World – The International Pearling Journal, July, August, September Issue, 2006.