For more than four thousand years, pearls have been prized for their beauty and rarity all across the world. Natural pearls as well as naturally round pearls are extremely rare to come across. As a result, pearl cultivation emerged to meet demand for this precious gem. Today, nearly all pearls – Akoya, Tahiti, South-Sea, fresh-water, – are cultured.
Cultured pearls are grown on pearl farms, where several thousand oysters are nucleated and cared for by skilled pearl farmers. It takes about 2-5 years for the pearl to grow and develop. When the pearls have fully developed, they are harvested and extracted from the oysters. Each pearl is then put through the process of washing, drying, and sorting. Finally, the pearls are ready to be sold to jewelers, manufacturers, and other pearl dealers.
Mikoto pearls are cultivated in the Ise-Shima, Mie Prefecture region, considered to be the best Akoya pearl producing region in Japan and the center of pearl cultivation. Akoya pearls are cultured in the Akoya oyster (pinctada fucata martensii). They are renowned for their luster and range in color from white, cream white, pink to light green, blue and silver. Depending on the size of the mother oyster, they tend to be small, ranging in size from about 2 to 10 mms. They are the most consistently round and near-round pearls, which makes them ideal for multi-pearl jewelry such as strands and bracelets.
The Pearl Association of Japan endorses Mikoto pearls and together with Pearl Quality Examiners Association, provide the pearl grading system for Mikoto. The purpose of grading pearls is to ensure quality and value of the pearl for the customers.