Big Japanese Akoya

Japanese akoya pearls, thought to be an endangered species, are back, and in a big way: in 8, 9, and 10 mm. How did pearl producers get the small akoya to handle such whoppers? Avi Raz, pearl expert and owner of A&Z Pearls, Los Angeles, explains: "The Chinese started concentrating on the smaller-size freshwater pearls, improving their quality quite significantly, very much resembling akoya." But only "resembling," he adds. Raz has never seen a Chinese freshwater that can match the luster and roundness of a Japanese akoya, but he says the prospect of competing with the low prices, abundant quantities, and large size of the Chinese product scared the Japanese. "So they abandoned the cultivation of small-size pearls, up to 7 mm," Raz says. Raz points out that there is very little Japanese akoya product in the market under 7 mm. And since only a small amount of Japanese akoya is stil

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