It was the late 1940s when Akoya pearls first captured the attention of the American public—soldiers returning home from the War in the Pacific brought back Akoya strands for girlfriends and wives. These striking, mostly white pearls have a high-gloss finish and were once a staple accessory with every outfit. Akoya oysters, which grow in the waters off the coasts of Japan and China, produce the slickest-looking nacre, or outer coating, on pearls in the world thanks to the cold saltwater in which they reside. Akoyas have long been dubbed the Cadillac of pearls by insiders, and are now enjoying quite a renaissance, hitting rock-star status once again for several reasons. Here’s what you need to know.
1. A new generation is falling in love with the Akoya’s incomparable luster. It’s been decades since America’s first love affair with the Akoya, and as the saying goes, everything comes back in style. This time, however, Akoya strands are being worn in multiples, mixed sizes, and paired with other varieties for looks that are anything but grandmotherly. See Assael’s Akoya strands for inspiration.
2. White pearls are on the runways of couture shows. Fashion designers are taking advantage of the beauty of white pearls reminiscent of Akoyas. Pearl accents on clothes have been routine for the past year (see “How to Wear Pearls with Fall 2017 Fashion”), which has helped to remind fashionistas of the beauty of this lustrous organic gem.
3. New sizes of Akoyas are breathing new life into design options. In the 1940s, the 6-mm strand was a routine sale. Today, bigger sizes (8 mm) have appeared on the market, as have some tinier (2 mm) options. All possess the same magnificent luster of their average-size counterparts, but the range permits more-creative efforts. Look to Assael’s new Bubbles by Sean Gilson collection for a winning example.