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Beginner's questions: Whither Biwa; Akoyas overprocessed?

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  • Beginner's questions: Whither Biwa; Akoyas overprocessed?

    I am new to this forum, as well as to "the pearling life." I was just reading Richard Wise's "Secrets of the Gem Trade," (from 2006), and it has raised a couple of questions in my mind, thoughts on which I would be interested in hearing, from members here.

    1. What is the current status of freshwater (Biwa) pearl production in Japan?

    2. In the section on pearls, Wise omits any discussion of Akoya pearls, "...not because the Akoya is an inferior pearl," but, because, "...assembly line methods currently practiced by the Japanese produce a pearl with such thin layers of nacre, and that is so highly processed (bleached and dyed), that it more closely resembles a manufactured product than it does a true pearl."
    What are your thoughts?


  • #2
    There are akoyas, and there are akoyas. Back in the 1970s or so there was concern because akoya pearls were being harvested after less time in the water, the result being thin nacre. I believe the oysters are mostly left in the water longer, now.

    Also, if one goes to high grade pearls like Hanadama, the nacre is guaranteed to be at least 0.4mm thick.

    Look at these Natural White Hanadama pearls, for example -- photos borrowed from the following thread:


    • #3
      Ted, Lake Biwa is no longer producing any freshwater pearls.

      The following quote is from Kojimapearl.com website. Sarah is a member here.

      "Lake Kasumi-ga-Ura, some 40 miles northeast of Tokyo, was a center of freshwater pearl cultivation from the 1960s to 1980s, 2nd only to Lake Biwa (near Kyoto, Japan) in number of cultivators and production. Most efforts ended due to environmental conditions during the 1980s, and for a decade there was no production. Since the early 1990s, a small handful of pearl farmers, without employees, have produced very small quantities of in-body bead nucleated freshwater pearls. We (Kojima Pearls) have acquired a considerable portion of the more baroque shaped pearls produced there." These are the true Kasumi pearls.

      Some bead nucleated pearls from China with a similar textured (rippled) nacre and colors are incorrectly called Kasumi pearls.





      • #4
        Even when Lake Biwa was producing, a lot of Chinese freshwater pearls were being substituted for the real thing by dealers in Japan. To make things worse, Biwa is misused as a term to refer to flatter baroque pearls. Richard did a wonderful new version of his book in 2016, but he did not update the pearl section. He's going to do it in one of the re-printings soon.


        • #5
          Oh, good GemGeek...I didn't buy the new edition, but I probably will after the pearl section has been updated. Will you give us a heads-up when it has been revised?

          BTW -- your natural white hanadama photos that I borrowed to post above still enchant me.


          • #6
            Thanks for the replies.



            • #7
              Thank you. A great example of lovely akoyas, for sure!

              And, yes, I will let you know when the pearl section is updated.
              Last edited by GemGeek; 07-25-2017, 04:04 AM.


              • #8
                Originally posted by GemGeek View Post
                Richard did a wonderful new version of his book in 2016, but he did not update the pearl section. He's going to do it in one of the re-printings soon.
                Excellent news!
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