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AAA vs AA+ Worth the extra money?

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  • AAA vs AA+ Worth the extra money?

    Hi All,

    I very happy to have found this site. I am in the market for ~7.0 mm pearls on a 16" necklace for my wife. She is 5'1" and about 100 pounds with light but not pale skin. I want something that looks stunning but is also durable. I have never bought pearls before. Also I haven't settled on Freshwater or Akoya but from my understanding the Akoya are much nicer. Also which overtone do I want for most brillant white color?

    Michael the Newbie

  • #2
    Hi MIchael
    What do you mean by "much nicer"? The akoyas have been more popular for their mechanical repetitiveness of almost perfect;ly round shape and brilliant mirror finish. However they are not very durable. The finishes are highly processed and wear off and the pearl itself is made with a large mother of pearl bead inside which was dipped in the oyster for a short period of time. The pearl coating does wear off in a matter of years, as many on this forum can attest to.

    Read up on the debate here and here.

    Inspite of all the faults of the akoya, it remains popular and many people prefer the look.

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.


    • #3
      The look of akoyas is different from that of freshwaters. I would recommend looking into the freshadamas sold by; freshwaters don't come any better than that. Freshwaters will also be more durable. If durability is a major factor, you'll be much better off going for freshwater pearls. And freshadamas are probably going to cost less than high-quality akoyas in the same size range. (You can read the thread about my visit to the Pearl Paradise offices to see the freshadamas here.)

      Some members here will tell you not to buy akoyas at all, ever. I say get them if you want them, but know what you're getting.

      As you've never bought pearls before, you may want to ask advice from your pearl vendor about the overtone to determine which overtone will actually go best with your wife's skin. Silver overtone will probably give you the whitest color, but it may or may not be the one that will look best on her.

      And whatever you do, don't buy anything from Their misleading information and unethical business practices render them undeserving of your business.


      • #4
        Agree with the above... Would probably dare go against expectations (if those mean 'Akoya' without being strongly specific about technicals) because really great pearls would do allot of talking for themselves once out of the box. But that is one bit you know better than anyone - a matter of emotion, not fact.

        Originally posted by
        Also which overtone do I want for most brilliant white color?
        To me, the whitest white pearls are those with 'silver' overtone - a cold white. But these overtones are subtle business. Pearls 'glow' for other reasons... IMO. Don't quite know what to call 'brilliance' for pearls, what glows on them is called 'orient' - a subtle swash of rainbow colors glowing through the reflective surface of the finest natural pearls.


        • #5
          I think it boils down to the average person will find more beauty in an Akoya pearl strand then a freshwater strand. A lot of pearl aficionados do prefer the freshwater pearl because they are solid nacre, thus more durable.

          Contrary to what some have said here, a good quality Akoya will not turn into a bead in a couple of years. Yes over time they will show signs of wear but I think some are overexaggerating just a bit here. I've been selling Akoya pearls for some time now and I've yet to have a call from a customer with a peeling or worn out strand.

          If having a very durable necklace that will last 100 years is important to you then buy a freshwater strand. If having a strand that is perfectly round and has a very bright reflective surface is important, get the Akoya strand.

          There are some very strong opinions on this message board and the best advice is to take them all with a grain of salt.
          Kevin Canning
          Pearls Of Joy

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          • #6
            Hi Kevin
            Thanks for minimalizing my comments to a grain of salt!

            Someone very recently reported on this forum that their high quality Mikimoto akoyas wore down to the bead in 7 years. The strands I inherited from my mother-in-law a couple of years ago had many worn to the bead pearls on it. Someone on this forum bought an akoya from eBay and it had worn down surfaces where you could see the bead.

            It was the mother in law pearls that started me on the grand pearl quest that brought me here.

            I do think you and others on this forum have the best akoyas around, but the consumer does need to know that they wear out, if worn regularly.

            When I first got here, no one here knew about. or sold. the best gem quality cultured freshwater pearls (CFWP) on this site. I was told many times that CFWP were inferior and junk, which is why I began to refer to myself as "just a lowly beader" becuase I like them best.

            Then Jeremy went searching for the best of the best freshwaters and found the ones with luster that beat the akoyas, though it is a different luster, ones with water and orient, for which he adopted the term "Freshadamas". Remember the poll where he posted both types of pearl. More people chose the Freshadamas as the akoyas, because they picked for luster. Below is a copy of the picture.

            This top of the line, very rare, CFWP stands up to any test of quality when compared to the old fashioned, wild gathered, natural pearls which haven't been gathered for the past 100 years due to centuries of overfishing.

            Nevertheless, as I said before, akoyas remain popular. Maybe this is because they have been hyped by the akoya industry for the last 70 years, and they were the only game in town for decades.

            While I do not argue with the popularity of the akoya pearl, I do like to argue that CWFP are longlasting and a great investment.

            So Michael, which is the hanadama and which is the freshadama? Btoh are examples of the best quality of their respective kinds of pearls. Here is the original poll. You will note slightly more people picked the akoya as the Freshadama.
            Attached Files
            Last edited by Caitlin; 12-01-2006, 07:04 PM.

            How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

            My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.


            • #7

              Wow, thanks for all the help. I think I will go with the Freshadama. They look great and are a great price. I also spoke with Kirsten on the phone at Pearl Paradise and was wonderfully helpful. Thanks everyone!



              • #8
                Yes, Kirsten's very helpful. A model of customer service, and I speak from experience.


                • #9
                  Hello All,
                  I was going to start a new thread today and ask pretty much the same questions about Akoya vs. Freshwater. But after reading this thread and others I have pretty much decided that the freshwater pearls are a better choice for me. For one thing, I plan on wearing my pearls often...because I love them and with the freshwater pearls I don't have to worry about wearing them out nearly as soon. The other thing I was curious about was what Zeide had to say about moisture.
                  Originally posted by Zeide Erskine
                  Furthermore, even if you do not wear it, you cannot store your akoyas in a safety deposit box. It has to be stored in a moist environment or it will deteriorate even without wear.
                  I didn't know about the moisture thing. Is that only for Akoyas or does it include Freshwaters as well? I live where the humidity is pretty low year round. My house is at 14% right now as we heat with wood heat in the winter and in the summer we are hot and arid as well. So this also affects which type of pearl I choose.

                  One other first pair of Freshadama earrings just arrived today and they are gorgeous. I love 'em.
                  TaTa for now.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by
                    Contrary to what some have said here, a good quality Akoya will not turn into a bead in a couple of years. Yes over time they will show signs of wear but I think some are overexaggerating just a bit here. I've been selling Akoya pearls for some time now and I've yet to have a call from a customer with a peeling or worn out strand.

                    ...There are some very strong opinions on this message board and the best advice is to take them all with a grain of salt.
                    Kevin makes two very good points. If you take the figures posted literally (that an Akoya pearl with .7mm nacre thickness will last 10 years) that would mean a diameter deterioration of about 1mm every 7 years. If you apply nacre deterioration value to pearls in general (namely Freshwater pearls) that would imply that a 8mm pearls would deteriorate to only a 6mm pearl within only 14 years (assuming that all nacre deteriorates at the same rate).

                    There are so many other factors involved in the longevity of an Akoya pearl. Yes, nacre thickness is a very important factor but you also can not compare the worn down Akoya strands sold on eBay to the Akoya strands that are offered by many sellers here. You do not know if those pearls started out with a nacre thickness of .2mm or not. They may have quite possibly been Akoya that were harvested after only 6 months and it is not a fair comparison to the higher quality Akoya that are available from sellers that do focus on quality (like I know Kevin does).

                    This is not to say that I do not believe that Akoya will not wear, but there are so many other factors other than the fact that they are Akoya.


                    • #11
                      Hi Stephen,

                      You are mistaking deterioration with nacre wear. Bad mistake. Akoyas are only attractive due to their enhancements. Untreated akoya hama age is ugly. The enhancements involved make the already thin nacre brittle and more prone to abrasion. In the process of surface abrasion, top-layer treatments like vapor deposition and polish wear off first. That is why hanadama strands stop being hanadamas after just 3-5 years of wear if worn frequently. Freshwater pearls that are as highly treated as akoyas would be subject to similar wear but we were talking about minimally treated ones with corresponding intact and elastic conchiolion that would wear significantly less than highly treated ones and lightyears less than akoya PPBs.



                      • #12

                        Your response illustrates the point I was trying to make. There are so many other factors that are involved that making a general statement that the nacre on an Akoya pearl will wear off in a couple of years is very misleading.

                        It is already a well known fact that during the early 70's the quality of Akoya pearls being produced had reached an all time low due to the neglect of the mollusks and the increase in water pollution due to industrialization. Then again during the 80's, as Germany began to be an important market, overpopulation of the farms led to pollution issues again and the quality of the pearls declined once more. You can also credit Mikimoto for determining in the 70's that you only need .35mm nacre thickness to create good luster. Up until that point .6mm to 1mm was the standard.

                        Also during the 80's there were many factors that led the farmers to shortening the growth time from 3 years to as short as 12 months. There were also a lot of pearls that were only cultured for 6 months because the farmers feared the mollusks would not survive longer than that.

                        Today the common practice is to grow the pearls for at least two years and sometimes three years. This brings the nacre thickness back closer to what was acceptable in the earlier part of the 20th Century.

                        Even with the different treatments that are used on Akoya pearls, the single most determining factor in the pearl durability is the nacre thickness. I do not think that you will argue that a pearl with .3mm nacre have less durability than a pearl with .7mm nacre thickness regardless of the treatment (acceptable treatment).

                        Given that, I think it is incorrect (and unfair) to use pearls purchased 15 - 20 years ago, or purchased on eBay (no knowing the age or origin) and make the statement that Akoya pearls sold today by reputable dealers who focus on quality will not have any better durability.


                        • #13
                          Hi Stephen
                          I try to be even-handed in these debates, but I do like to answer when you make it into a taking sides kind of argument. The only person in this thread that said "a couple of years" was Kevin, yet it was this statement you used in your argument to override my argument. I often think that some of you akoya pearl merchants do not READ my posts carefully, y'all just see me saying "akoyas wear out, if worn regularly" and become upset that customers might see that.

                          I'll concede the eBay pearls, but I think they were also Mikis.

                          Without quoting any more of #8 above, but to amplify it: My in-laws mentioned in #8 above, wore at least one of their strands daily. Nevertheless, after decades, the ones that came down to the grandchildren had many pearls that needed to be replaced because of nacre wear off. The replacement pearls we found did not have nacre as thick as the early cultured akoyas the in-laws wore. In fact I found out on this very forum that the akoya nacre standards have been reduced in thickness over the years. A nacre thickness of .7 , which you sell, is among the best available, and quite above the current standard. But how thick is that, about a sheet of paper's thickness?

                          On the other hand, my grandmother's pearls, naturals from Bahrain, show no signs of wear(unless you magnify them tremendously). Some of them are believed to be up to 200 years old. Even if they are smaller because of nacre wear off, they don't show a bead underneath, only more nacre. I do have a picture with nacre wear on one of them.

                          I hope my comments will not affect most akoya devotees, but I do like to be allowed to say that the best CFWP are as beautiful as the hanadamas- and last much longer. Jeremy even said in a thread here, that even a hanadama strand will lose its hanadama quality in 10 years, if worn very much. (I thought that was quite a concession)

                          Never will there be a time when the Frashadamas are as reasonable as they are now, and I love it when folks see that for long lasting pearls of high quality at a reasonable price, they can't be beat. And the only place I argue this, is to the people who read this forum- the rest of the world does not know, yet.
                          Attached Files
                          Last edited by Caitlin; 05-30-2007, 08:04 PM.

                          How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

                          My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.


                          • #14

                            I did not mean to turn it into a "taking sides" argument. If it appeared that way it is not how I intended it. I guess that saying "a few years" could be see to mean "two years". What you said was "a matter of years" and Kevin said "a couple of years". The point was that it has been talked about many times in this forum and it has become common place to say that all Akoya will wear out in "a few" or "a couple" or "a matter of" years (just take your pick of the time period descriptive) with no regard to the quality of the pearl.

                            I do not deny your experience at all and do agree that a natural pearl or a Freshwater pearl will be much more durable than an Akoya pearl. That point I have never disagreed with, it is just inherent they would being 100% (or close to 100%) nacre. I think that I have also said somewhere in the forum (in so many words) that my favorite pearl is a lavender Freshwater pearl because of the luster, orient and natural coloring.

                            You are correct in that the nacre thickness in the pearls today is not as thick as could be had the early part of the 20th Century. However, there is not as large a difference as you might think. From the 20's to the 40's the nacre thickness was between .45mm and .9mm. This was considered excellent quality. During the 70's and 80's is when nacre thickness of .35mm was more common. The difference today is that each pearl in a strand will have a more consistent depth of nacre with it's neighbor than it would have had in the earlier part of the 20th Century.

                            It should also be noted that even if the pearls were purchased from a "large corporate entity", it did not guarantee thicker nacre. I may be wrong, but I believe that Mikimoto stopped actively culturing pearls in the mid 70's (I would have to look it up to be sure). So Mikimoto or not, pearls from those era (70's and 80's) would most likely have a much shorter life span than those produced today where the focus has been returning to quality rather than quantity.

                            Your comments on the highest quality Freshwater - I agree with 100%.


                            • #15

                              My information about the increasing length of culturing time was from Strack. If it is incorrect I take no responsibility

                              Also, you might want to clarify that while the average nacre thickness of Akoya at hamage may be .2mm, that is not the average nacre thickness of farm grade A Akoya.

                              Out of the Akoya pearls harvested, only about 75% are suitable for use of some type. Out of this around 20% are classified as low quality, 40% are medium quality and about 5% are considered good quality. This means that about 30% of the entire harvest is "medium" quality. That is a lot of pearls that would be below farm grade A. They are in the marketplace. They are being sold.

                              ** Note: These are average figures and may vary from harvest to harvest and farm to farm.

                              Can you point me to the information about the GIA accepting .25mm as thick nacre? All the information that I have shows both the GIA and IGI list .25mm nacre thickness as "thin". This is the point where blinking will start to occur. Also, isn't the GIA, IGI and the Japanese standard for "very thick" is .6mm+?