- Oct 7, 2004
That pink sapphire neck-cape... oh my heart!!
I said earlier that I've bought akoya pearls from a lot of vendors, and that my opinion is that Mikimoto sells the best akoya that oysters can produce. Let's get grubby with some head to head comparisons.
We'll start with some sweeping generalizations. Because what better way to parlay objectivity, right? The only vendor I've bought from whose top quality akoya can consistently compete with Mikimoto A+ and above is Andrew Moline (and Takahashi). The vast majority of pre-certified Hanadama and Ten-nyo - certainly every example that I've personally encountered - will be outdone by Mikimoto A+ and above (back to @Snowdrop13's thread that I linked earlier). That's not a slight on all those other vendors and grading agencies: Mikimoto starts their scale with really nice pearls and they've got pricetags to match.
For me, personally... This journey of pearl discovery has ended with the realization that I give Mikimoto name cachet only in the top quality. To me, Mikimoto AAA/Reserve is worth a brand premium. To me Mikimoto A, A+, and AA are not.
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A few months ago Andrew sourced a pair of 7-7.5mm gemmy babies for me. These pearls are 7.4mm by my calipers. They're a gift for a friend's daughter - lucky lucky girl. Her name is Matilda so I called them "Matilda studs". Andrew also sent along his own Mikimoto AAA studs in the same size. I mentioned this in another thread: These little “gem” quality akoya from Andrew actually have sharper luster than his Mikimoto AAA. Check out my nose in these reflections… And the shape of the black camera body…
7.4 = Andrew Moline, 7-7.5mm “gem” quality
7.0 AAA = Mikimoto
Andrew's pricing: A small discount from Mikimoto's 7mm AAA cost. The best pearls are expensive no matter who's selling them. If someone's selling pearls on the cheap and there aren't extenuating circumstances (preloved is the first that comes to mind...) - then they aren't going to be the best, no matter what anyone might say.
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I’ve known for a long time that all pearl quality designations are ranges - from every single vendor out there. And since there’s no universally-respected grading authority, each vendor is free to design his own scale. (What a riot. And by riot I mean categorical embarrassment to the industry). I had this persistent question - is objective pearl quality a sliding scale with respect to size? Is it impossible to find a 9mm+ akoya that’s every bit as phenomenal as a phenomenal 7mm akoya, zero compromise?
After comparing the 7.4mm Matilda babies to Mikimoto AAA, I knew that I had a small Mikimoto-equivalent AAA example in hand. A couple weeks ago I bought a pair of Mikimoto AA studs in the 8.5mm size (they measured 8.75-8.80mm by my calipers) to see what the drop from AAA to AA might look like when combined with a size increase.
7.4 = Andrew Moline, 7-7.5mm "gem" quality
8.5 AA = Mikimoto (actually 8.8mm)
9.7 = Andrew Moline, 9.5-10mm "gem" quality, also PSL certified Hanadama (Andrew kindly sent them to PSL at my request right after original purchase).
WSS = Pearl Paradise, 11-12mm (actually 11.9mm) - only here because I didn't have a good way to crop them out, ignore 'em!
Mikimoto's 8.5mm AA were nicer than my 9.7mm "gems" from Andrew, but the 7.4mm "gems" from Andrew were nicer than the Mikimoto 8.5mm AA. This tells me that by Andrew's definition, the term "gem" quality does/can slide with size.
I asked Andrew about potentially upgrading quality. Actually, I just asked for "Matilda studs in [an Yssie] size". He spoke with his suppliers and let me know that they'd informed him that it was extremely unlikely they'd be able to fulfill that ask.
Back to that question of whether large pearls of small-size-Mikimoto-AAA quality even exist, or if even Mikimoto's own quality scale slides with size.
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I took those same 9.7mm "gem"/Hanadama to Mikimoto for comparison with similarly-sized pearls. They fell right into place at Mikimoto A+ equivalent. Nicer than the 9.25mm A pearls, not as nice as the 9.25mm AA pearls. More pink and better matched than the 9.25mm A+, but less lustrous.
Price? I paid a little less than 9.5mm Mikimoto A+ retail. So once again, nomenclature aside, what I spent fairly represents the quality that I received.
And the answer to my question? No. Mikimoto's quality scale doesn't slide with size. Mikimoto AAA in the "rare" akoya sizes is every bit as phenomenal as AAA in the smaller sizes!!
But. Here's a big "but".
Even Mikimoto, with their heritage, buying power, and industry contacts, had only one pair of 9.25mm AAA pearls in stock. And they didn't have any 9.5mm AAA pairs in stock. And my anticipated wait time for a custom order was 3-6 months. Even Mikimoto can't just pull large AAAs out of their hats. These pearls are just rare beyond belief. A smaller vendor's inability to source the kind of quality I was looking for makes perfect sense.
That's why I recommend Andrew. His pricing is fair for quality, and he'll be forthright about what he can and can't do, and that lets you make your own educated decisions.
Okay. Finally back. So on that last question. Reference papers at the bottom, additional sources include conversations with some of the authors of those papers, Hisano Shepherd (Little H, Pearl Paradise), Andrew Moline, and an IGI pearl grader who shall remain nameless.
Donor age has no impact on luster. Well. Negligible. I meant to say something like "saturated-ly coloured" - no clue how I went from that to "lustrous". Sigh.The donor oyster is primarily responsible for pearl colour. This is usually discussed in the context of Tahitians, but is true for all oyster species. Using a younger donor, regardless of recipient age, is more likely to yield a lustrous pearl, and if we're talking about Pinctada margaritifera in particular - is more likely to yield a green pearl with colourful iridescence. Using an older donor, regardless of recipient age, is more likely to yield a pearl with muted body colour and muted iridescence.
You're completely adorable And we you!!If so its like the equivalent of posting pictures from a Bruce Springsteen concert you are at !
I just snorted my stout Ain't that the truth!! I've outdone myself. And I've probably exhausted my nitpick quota for the month. I just can't... Not... I was worried about scaring my SA before meeting her - but I managed to keep the pedant mostly leashed, and she took what I couldn't quite stifle in strideI love that you walked into MM and found something to call abysmal lol.
@icy_jade Oh my goodness the store was such a delight!! I was the only one there for most of my visit - a couple of other customers dropped in but another SA took care of them as my SA had blocked her early afternoon out for me. Talk about royal treatment
I would LOVE to go to the HK show one day. It's on my bucket list. I feel like I've seen and got enough to judge akoya, Tahitians, and WSS by. GSS, they're different beasts - that at this point I'm honestly not even interested in taming anymore. GSSs will be my "fun" pearls. No pressure to be #Grand. I should be fine as long as I don't ever visit a Jewelmer boutique
The window sunburn is ridiculous. I was laughing as I posted. I told my husband that I'm going to need to do some right face sunbathing as soon as I'm home - don't think he understood but he chose to not inquire further
Strand length. Didn't even occur to me but... Y'know, you aren't wrong... My knotting has gotten a bit better. A bit. Just bought a bunch of thread and some beading needles. I'd like to be able to restring my own strands. My efforts will probably end in taking everything to my local place and asking them to string using the thread I provide, but hey, at least I'll be able to say that I gave it the ol' college try before giving it the ol' one-two
You clearly deserved the royal treatment!
Jewelmer pearls are nice. I went to a few stores before. Great matching etc and imo uniformly matched orbs have a certain magnetic quality to them but not all individual pearls are fabulous - is like Mikimoto you know what I mean?
You have the “eye” so you will be fine with GSS. Really depends on what you like - color, luster, overtones. I think once you see some really stunning GSS, you will be smitten. Just don’t buy immediately... personally I think fairs are a great way to learn. If you see a few hundred or thousands of strands in a day, you learn quite quickly. Plus in any case not all booths have those 0.01% pearls and those pearls are easy to spot.
Logically big knots makes financial sense if I am a seller- fewer pearls for the same length right? But once you have seen little knots the big knots can be such an eyesore. Am not criticizing your knotting k? Just my personal view on knotting. Anyway personally I like mine to be strung on wires.
Ouch re your sunburn. Hope there’s no tonal issue when it settles...