Upheaval in the Pearl Market

The alarming mortality of Japanese pearl-producing oysters hasn’t materially affected the retail market, a strong indication that the perfectly round, high-luster saltwater akoya—a bead-nucleated saltwater pearl typically ranging in size from 4 mm to 7 mm—is still king. That’s according to a recent JCK poll of retail jewelers, who reported that Japanese akoya pearls represent 70% of their cultured pearl strand sales. Wholesaler Avi Raz, owner of A&Z Pearls in Los Angeles, has a simple explanation: “The Japanese akoya has a better luster.” Why? The combination of mollusk variety and colder water temperatures makes for thin, tightly packed nacreous layers, which disperse light with an iridescence that no other pearl can duplicate. A mirror-like surface gives the akoya pearl its brightness. And Raz says he has no trouble finding the right quality and size of these beauties
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