History & Cultivation
Akoya Pearls History
Pearls have adorned the wealthy and powerful for thousands of years. From Ancient China to the Greco-Roman world, natural pearls were coveted for their beauty and luster. Today, pearls are still part of our fine jewellery wardrobe. Natural pearls adorned the wealthy and powerful for not only centuries but thousands of years. Stories date back to the time of Alexander. In addition, the character for "pearls" appears for the first time in a Chinese dictionary written about 1000BC. In more recent times, natural pearls have also played a prominent role. In 1917, the flagship Cartier building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street was purchased for one double strand of natural Akoya and a token amount of $100. This building stands today to as a testament to the value placed upon pearls.
Natural Pearls Formation
Natural Akoya pearls are formed within an Akoya oyster. Oysters are filter feeders so they open their shells slightly to allow water to flow in. The oysters then take nutrients from the microscopic particles and organisms in the ocean water. As a result, small irritants such as small ocean animals can also float in. Parasites can also drill right through the oyster's hard shell. To protect itself, the oyster encloses the irritant in a sac and then secretes layer upon layer of nacre around the irritant. After time, this results in a lustrous pearl.
Cultured Pearl Beginnings
During the late 1800's, leaps and bounds were made in culturing of saltwater pearls. Australian William Saville-Kent is widely credited with being the first to successfully culture saltwater pearls from an oyster. This method was thought to have passed on to two Japanese pioneers, Tokichi Nishikawa and Tatsuhei Mise. They built on the knowledge. Then, Kokichi Mikimoto bought their patent and experimented for additional techniques. Mikimoto is know today as "King of Pearls.' In addition to his ingenuity, his remarkable vision, drive and salesmanship have brought Akoya pearls to the forefront of fine jewellery. Today, his company still bears his name.
Image source: www.en.wikipedia.org