May 3, 2017

Why I Love Japanese Akoya Keshi Pearls

Tamara Grabinger, artist

I have such a passion for gems and pearls…sometimes, I simply sit with my favorites in front of me and let the gems and pearls guide my hands.  Some of my most beautiful work features Akoya Keshi, so let’s talk about what they are and why I love them and use them in my work. First, the word Keshi in Japanese means poppy. Second, these  tiny pearls are not technically “pearls” because they contain no nucleus. They are strictly nacre. Finally, each and every one of them is hand drilled. Literally, hand drilled. First a piece of wood is soaked in water overnight. Next the pearl is pushed into the soft wood. There is a spear like tool that is used to drill each pearl…one at a time. The set up is really quite primitive.

I did some searching and found a video describing the process and you can watch it here:

 Akoya pearls are renowned for their incredible luster and are considered the classic pearl.  They are the specialty of Japanese pearl farms, and are a saltwater cultured pearl from the Akoya oyster (Pinctada fucata martensii).

There are so many reasons I love Japanese Akoya Keshi…they are incredibly special and really beautiful. There’s something magical about using these tiny pieces that are not meant to be…I liken it to a sneeze. That mollusk is supposed to be layering all that gorgeous nacre goodness on a bead nucleated pearl. And then a sneeze…and a beautiful Keshi is born. They account for less than 0.5% of all annual Akoya production.

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