The nucleation process of Saltwater Akoya Pearls usually takes place in the spring and summer. The oysters are loaded into small containers and submerged in slow moving or still water, where there is less food available to them. For three months they remain in this water until their metabolisms are less than half their normal rate. This process makes the oysters much more able to endure the shock of nucleation.
The nucleation process is very similar for all saltwater cultured pearls. Almost all the nucleation methods are more or less based on the original Akoya nucleation procedures developed in Japan. Only differences in the oyster species’ anatomy will raise the need for any variation. A tine bead, that is usually mother of pearl, is inserted in the gonad of the oyster. The bead and an implanted piece of mantle tissue are all that is needed for the oyster to create a cultured pearl.
Many of the professional oyster nucleators say it’s easier to nucleate an Akoya oyster, rather than a south sea or Tahitian oyster. This is due to the anatomy of the Akoya oyster, which allows for much better access to the gonad. However, the procedure is still a delicate one. The smallest mistake during this surgery can be fatal to the oyster. Actually, only about half of Akoya oysters survive the nucleation process.
The Akoya oyster is able to accept multiple nuclei. Up to 5 can be accepted at a time, depending on the oyster’s size and health, and the size of the nuclei. Between three and five nuclei are used to produce pearls that are 4mm or smaller. The smaller the number of nuclei used in an Akoya oyster, the larger the pearl range. Therefore, to cultivate pearls that are any larger than 5-6mm, only one nucleus can be present. These can be used in pearl necklaces, pearl earrings or other pearl jewelry.