Akoya Pearls

The Akoya pearl is a saltwater cultured pearl from Akoya oyster (Pinctada fucata). Akoya pearl is one of the most popular type of pearl that is used to create jewelleries such as necklaces and earrings. Akoya pearls are the specialty of Japanese pearl farms. In 1893 the first cultured Akoya pearl was made by Kokichi Mikimoto. This was an amazing achievement that created the cultured pearl industry we know today.

The Japanese Akoya pearl looks very similar to the Freshwater pearl. However, when compared side-by-side, the difference is clear. On average, the Akoya pearls are larger, smoother, rounder, and more lustrous than Freshwater pearls.

Where do they come from?

The Akoya oysters (Pinctada fucata), from the water of Japan, live in shoals and in water depths of 1 – 5 metres. The part of the sea that raises the Akoya oysters (Pinctada fucata) is calm but also has a few large waves and mild temperature of 15 – 23 degrees Celsius. All of these climate factors contribute to the production of Akoya pearls with stunning lustre and rich colours.

Sometimes natural pearl forms when an irritant, such as a fragment of shell becomes lodged inside the mollusc when it is feeding, or a parasite drills through the shell. To protect itself, the mollusc forms a sac around any irritant and, over time, the growing pearls are completely covered with the beautiful iridescent substance we call nacre, or mother of pearl.

The cultivation process is much the same as other pearl types where a small bead made of mother of pearl is inserted into the gonad of the oyster along with a small piece of mantle tissue. Depending on the health of the oyster, more than one bead can be implanted in the gonad of an Akoya pearl oyster. Akoya oysters can be nucleated with up to 5 beads but the use of 2 is most common. Akoya oyster dies at harvest.

What colour, sizes, and shapes available?

Most Akoya pearls are white to grey, with pink, green, or silver overtones. It is extremely rare to find blue Akoya pearls with silver and pink overtones. Black Akoya pearls are not naturally produced. The black Akoya pearls that are on the market today have undergone either Cobalt-60 radiation treatment or treatment with an organic dye.

Japanese Akoya pearl size ranges from as small as 3mm to as large as 9.5mm. Akoya pearl size below 7mm are considered small in size. 7mm to 8mm are more popular sizes for necklace while Akoya pearl size above 8mm are considered rare, more valuable and higher in quality.

Akoya pearls are inherently round, but every harvest produces a percentage of baroque and keshi pearls, which tend to have the bright lustre and shine common to Akoya.

The Japanese Akoya pearl remains a pure symbol of elegance and beauty.

♦View our beautiful Japanese Akoya pearl collection.


Freshwater Pearls


Freshwater pearls are the most commonly produced pearls. They look very similar to Akoya pearls when worn, but are available for a much lower price. Most Freshwater pearls come from China and Japan, and are the product of an elaborate process in which a single resilient mussel can be harvested many times, yielding several pearls at a time. They have such unique shapes and colours combined with their attractive prices made them a favourite among jewellery designers and shoppers.

The Freshwater pearl looks remarkably similar to the Akoya pear, but Freshwater pearls are available for almost 1/5 the price of Akoya pearls. The only disadvantage about Freshwater pearls is that they are generally smaller and less symmetrical.

Where do they come from?

Freshwater pearls are commonly produced by Hyriopsis cumingi (triangle shell) and Hyriopsis schlegeli (Biwa shell) in China, and other bivalve mussels that live in lakes, riverbeds and creek bottoms in Japan (Biwa pearls and Lake Kasumigaura pearls). Although Freshwater pearls can be found in several area of the world, the global Freshwater market is overwhelmingly dominated by Chinese pearl farms, which account for nearly all freshwater pearls sold today.

Our Freshwater pearls are cultured. The cultivation process is called nucleation. In Freshwater cultured pearls only a piece of mantle tissue from a donor mussel is used for the nucleus which is then implanted into the mantle area of a six to seven month old mussel. Each of the six to seven-months old mussel will be implanted with 24 to 32 mantle tissues. Once the tissue has been inserted, a sac forms and cells begin secreting nacre, forming a calcium-carbonate compound – a pearl.

Then the mussels are returned to the water and can stay in the water from two to six years, the mussels deposit layer of nacre around the growing gems, generally producing more than two dozen pearls clustered on the inside of each shell.  Those mussels that produced the better quality pearls are again put back in the water for another two to three years. After being harvested, the pearls are then bleached to whiten them and then they go through a polishing process. For rare and unusual coloured pearls, they are not bleached but they still go through the polishing process.

After the two processes the pearls would go through, the pearls are then being sorted and separated into different qualities. Then the pearls will go through the drilling process depending on the type of jewellery they are going to become. The pearls that are used as necklaces are drilled thru and those selected for other types of jewelleries are half-drilled. The top quality pearls are not drilled but rather sold as individual pearls in lots.

How rare and valuable are they?

Freshwater pearls are the most common pearls in the world. It looked similar to the Japanese Akoya pearl but it is offered in a lower price. This is because it is common for Freshwater pearls to be in the baroque shape. The rounder the pearl the more valuable the pearl, hence, Freshwater pearl aren’t that expensive compared to other pearl types on the market. The shape is not the only factor that is affecting the value of Freshwater pearls, but also the colour. Freshwater pearls are known for their wide range of colours that they produce naturally. That increases the value of the pearl. However, as it is widely accepted that treatment and irradiation are performed on Freshwater pearls to achieve the most unique colour. But, the treatment will decrease the value of the pearl despite the colour.

It is extremely rare for Freshwater pearl mussels to produce a round or near round shape. Therefore, the round Freshwater pearls are only sold in top quality retail stores or top retail stores online such as NewZealandPearl.co.nz.

What colour, sizes, and shapes available?

Freshwater pearls are known for its wide range of different colours. Many popular colours – white, pink, orange, and other pastels – can be achieved through natural means, including the pearl mollusc’s genetics, what they eat, and the amount and type of trace metals in the cultivating environment.

Although different colours can be achieved through natural means, in order to create a particular or unusual colour pearl for wearer’s complexion and wardrobe preferences it is widely accepted to treat or irradiate Freshwater pearls.

From a value point of view, when selecting coloured pearls, it is important to understand if the colour is natural or the result of treatment or irradiation. For example, Tahitian pearls are the only naturally occurring charcoal to black pearls. It should be made clear to you that other pearls exhibiting these colours have been treated, and that fact reflected in a lower cost.

View our beautiful Freshwater collection.


South Sea Pearls

There are two types of South Sea pearls – White South Sea pearls and Golden South Sea pearls. Both colours are natural and untreated. The Golden South Sea pearl is a true miracle of nature.

They are much larger than the average pearl, the smoothness and roundness of these pearls are exceptional. These are the rarest and extraordinary pearls you’ll find in jewellery. Because of the rarity and sensitivity of this type of oyster, cultivation of these pearls is much difficult, making them more expensive. However, because of these unique features of this type of oyster, resulting South Sea pearls being larger than other pearl types. They also have a unique lustre quality – a soft reflection. They also have the highest average nacre of all cultured pearls.

White South Sea cultured pearls are exceptional quality pearls with a whitish, almost silver colour. The host shell is the largest pearl-producing oyster, and is able to grow a very large pearl. The growth period is approximately 2-4 years. Due to their large size, limited culturing area, and extended growth period all combine to make South Sea pearls the rarest of all pearl types. Colours are found from white to deep, honey gold. Collectors and designers alike all prized the South Sea pearls.

Golden South Sea pearls, much like white South Sea pearls, are typically larger than other saltwater pearl varieties. The value of a Golden South Sea pearl is heavily dependent upon the colour. The deeper the golden colour, the more valuable the pearl. The overall value of these pearls is higher than Akoya or Tahitian, and very comparable to White South Sea pearls.  The deepest golden colour, often referred to as 24 karats, is considered the most valuable colour of all South Sea Pearls.

Where do they come from?

The majority of White South Sea pearls are cultured along the northwest coast of Australia. Although the majority of South Sea pearl oysters in Australia are collected in the wile with hatchery-bred oysters to supplement, in other areas the opposite is true. In both cases, wild oysters are mixed with the hatchery stock to keep the supply healthy and plentiful, and all sources are closely monitored by government organisations to guarantee their long-term well-being.

Golden South Sea pearls are produced primarily in the Philippines and Indonesia – two countries that are quickly becoming the leaders in the finest Golden South Sea pearl production. The oyster that is responsible for producing the Golden South Sea pearl is the gold-lipped oyster also known as the Pinctata maxima.

Similar to humans, oysters have genes. The dominant gene in the Pinctada Maxima is the white or silver lipped oyster and the recessive gene is the gold-lipped oyster. Through selectively breeding oysters and selecting specific tissue during the culturing process the pearls that are being produced fall into a colour category ranging from gold to crème to champagne. On occasion a pearl of deep golden colour will be harvested which is the most desirable and rarest colour produced. The golden colour of these pearls is not the result of treatment or dye but 100% natural colour

How rare and valuable are they?

The oyster that produces the pearl happens to be extremely sensitive. Whereas other pearl producing oysters can be handles roughly the Pinctada maxima must be handled with extreme care. Whereas most oysters can survive with less nutrients the Pinctada maxima must have the proper concentration of plankton while in the water to ensure it’s healthy growth. To produce a nice Golden South Sea pearl, Pinctada maxima must be enclose in nets, which hold the shell from both sides, underwater.

South sea pearls are the undisputed leaders in value. Their large size, combined with the relative scarcity, make them among the most desired as well. A perfect strand of deep Golden South Sea pearls in a large size can sell for more than $100,000 USD.

What colour, sizes, and shapes available?

Silver-lipped South Sea pearl oysters generally produce pearls in the white, silver, aqua and blue family of overtones. Since the natural colours of South Sea pearls are so rich and beautiful, after harvesting they are merely washed and buffed to remove any residue and bring out their natural glow. White South Sea pearls can be found in the range of 8 to 20mm with the average being 12mm. Although extremely rare, some pearls have been found larger than 20mm. Baroque and drop-shapes are often used in high-end designer jewellery to showcase their unique shapes and lustre. This also makes the South Sea pearls available at a variety of price levels.

Pearls produced by the gold-lipped South Sea pearl oyster range is colours from a creamy white to a deep gold.  The varying hues in between are often referred to as yellow and champagne. Each of the colours may be beautiful on their own right, but the most valuable is the deep gold which has been described as 24K gold. Golden South Sea are quite large. n 8mm pearl would be considered a large pearl if it’s Akoya, but is the smallest size one will find in South Sea. The average size is in the 10 – 13mm range, and some remarkable have been found as large as 20mm. Golden South Sea pearls tend to have very thick nacre so, not all Golden South Sea pearls are as perfectly spherical as other saltwater varieties. In a typical harvest, there will be a large number of drop pearls, button pearls, baroque pearls and ringed pearls.

View our beautiful Golden South Sea collection.


Tahitian Pearls


Tahitian pearls are often referred as “Black Pearls”.  The natural black colour of these pearls comes from the colour of the oyster’s black lips. These pearls are traditionally “black”, but their colour can range from a metallic silver, to the colour of graphite.

Tahitian cultured pearls are cultivated from the black-lipped variety of the pinctada maxima oyster which reaches a foot or more in diameter, and produces very large pearls. This oyster is very sensitive to the pearl culturing process, which makes the pearls very costly to produce.

Where do they come from?

Although they are referred to as Tahitian pearls no pearls are actually grown there. Tahiti merely the trading centre in which black pearls from the surrounding islands (French Polynesia) are exported. The first man ever to experiment with pearl farming in this area of the world was Jean-Marie Domard. Domard a Frenchmen was responsible for the marine resource division and began his pursuit of the black pearl in the early 1960’s. Following in the tradition of the Mikimoto, he began experimenting with the Pinctada margaritifera using Japanese culturing techniques. After a few years of failed attempts, in 1965 Domard successfully harvested approximately 1000 high quality Tahitian pearls. This harvest was the result of nucleating 5000 oysters and waiting for 3 years.

How rare and valuable are they?

Tahitian pearls were once the rarest, most valuable cultured pearls in the world. They are still much more valuable than Freshwater and Akoya pearls, but the farming enterprises are no longer relegated to small groups of atolls. This has brought market forces into play, and today, Tahitian pearls are now affordable to a much wider demographic.

What colour, sizes, and shapes available?

Tahitian pearls are the only pearls that have a full colour spectrum. Black-lip pearl oysters have a rainbow-like mantle which exhibits all natural colours. These colours are expressed in Tahitian pearls in a magical way with colours shimmering over the surface of some of the best specimens. Beautiful Tahitian pearls are among the largest pearls in the world, ranging in size from approximately 8mm to 18mm. Because Tahitian are bead nucleate many of them are round, or near round, with other shapes expressed in drops, baroque, button, and ringed pearls. When all other factors are equal, round Tahitian pearls are the most valuable.

View our beautiful Tahitian collection.