Saltwater Akoya Pearl Harvesting

Akoya Pearls take the least amount of time to become ready for harvesting. This is usually between 8 months and 2 years. Akoya pearls are harvested in the winter due to the cooler temperatures of the water. This leads to a better quality pearl with superior luster.

There is no guarantee however that an Akoya pearl harvest is going to be successful. Some of the nucleated oysters end up rejecting their nuclei only weeks after they were nucleated. Half of the oysters do, however, produce a cultured pearl. Even so, only a small percentage of the pearls are perfectly round and white with a clean surface and a high luster. The inferior Akoya pearls have shapes that are baroque or semi-baroque, with green or blue overtones. And most have various degrees of surface blemishes.

Throughout the cultured pearl industry for pearl jewelry , newly harvested Akoya pearls are known as hama-age (hah-mah-AH-gay). These newly harvested cultured pearls are washed, dried, and sorted into general categories by size, shape, colour, and luster.

When Akoya saltwater pearls are received by the processor, they are almost always bleached with hydrogen peroxide. This cleans and brightens the Akoya pearls. The bleaching process can take from two weeks to six months to complete, with the amount of time reduced if the pearls themselves are of better quality. Only after this bleaching process do the silver, ivory, and rose overtones become apparent. The pearls are then sold to the Pearl traders.

It is erroneous to suggest that it is normal to purchase pearls directly from the Pearl Farmer. Purchasing is done either through a trader or directly from the Processor. The Pearl Processor is similar to a Winery. The Winery will have its own Vineyard and will also buy grapes from other vineyards in the vicinity. The same holds true for Pearls. The Pearl Processor will have its own farm however will also purchase from the independent farmer to fulfill the demand and support his processing plant.