Akoya pearls are cultivated salt water pearls and as the name suggests, are grown in Akoya oysters. The oysters live in the waters of Japan in shoals and in water depths of 1 – 5 metres. These calm seas have few large waves and mild temperatures of 15 to 23 degrees Celsius. Perfect oceanic climates attribute to the production of pearls with brilliant lustre and rich colours – the qualities the Akoya pearl has become renowned for. Akoya colours range from white, cream and pink to silver pink.
The Akoya oyster is the smallest pearl-producing oyster in the world. Akoya pearls are often available in the market in sizes of 3 – 10mm.
Freshwater pearls are cultivated in mussels rather than oysters, and most of the world’s supply are farmed in the lakes, rivers and ponds of China, often along the Yangtze river.
They are easier to grow than salt water pearls; one freshwater mussel can grow several pearls at a time, compared to salt water oysters that usually produce only one pearl. Mussels are often cultivated in farms in southern regions where pearl formation is faster, and then moved to northern farms (that have slower cultivation) to produce a compact nacre for better colour and lustre. They come in a range of colours including white, peach, pink and purple.